Chapter of the Week - The Silmarillion - Foreword

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Christopher Kreuzer

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Oct 18, 2005, 4:11:16 AM10/18/05
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And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.

There are, however, fundamental differences that set this work
(published in 1977) apart from the other two (published in 1937 and
1954/5). First, and most importantly, it was published after the death
of its author. Indeed, this is the first point that is made in the
'Foreword' to /The Silmarillion/, where Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.
Tolkien's youngest son, goes on to say that:

"On my father's death it fell to me to try to bring the work into
publishable form."

In the rest of the 'Foreword', Christopher Tolkien introduces the
material presented, gives some of the history of the writing and
publication of /The Silmarillion/, and explains some of the problems he
faced in preparing it for publication.

Before we begin the discussions, over the coming months, of the material
published in 1977 as /The Silmarillion/, a brief look at some of the
issues raised in Christopher Tolkien's 'Foreword' may help to place the
material in context.

As well as being published posthumously and edited by both Christopher
Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay, the material in /The Silmarillion/ is
different in tone and style from the other works, being mostly a
compendium of the legends of the First Age, as opposed to /The Lord of
the Rings/, which is a narrative tale from the Third Age. Also, the
writing of the Silmarillion material by Tolkien had a long history:

"...although it was not then called /The Silmarillion/, it was already
in being half a century ago; and in battered notebooks extending back to
1917 can still be read the earliest versions, often hastily pencilled,
of the central stories of the mythology [...] throughout my father's
long life he never abandoned it, nor ceased even in his last years to
work on it..."

Indeed, though published after /The Hobbit/ and /The Lord of the Rings/,
Christopher Tolkien emphasises that /The Silmarillion/ is:

"...in all the essentials of its conception, far the earlier work..."

We are also told how Christopher Tolkien has carried out J.R.R.
Tolkien's plan to place /The Lord of the Rings/ in its historical
context within this material:

"[four other short works] are included according to my father's explicit
intention; and by their inclusion the entire history is set forth from
the Music of the Ainur in which the world began to the passing of the
Ringbearers from the havens of Mithlond at the end of the Third Age."

Another point that Christopher Tolkien raises, is that there was a lot
of material that was not published:

"There is indeed a wealth of unpublished writing by my father concerning
the Three Ages, narrative, linguistic, historical, and philosophical,
and I hope that it will prove possible to publish some of this at a
later date."

This "wealth of unpublished writing" turned out to be a rather
understated way of putting it! There turned out to be a volume of
/Unfinished Tales/ plus 12 volumes of /The History of Middle-earth/. The
important point here though, is that it seems probable that these
further publications were only possible thanks to the success of /The
Silmarillion/.

Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
begin to understand HoME as well.

In this post, I have only covered the 'Foreword' that appears in my
edition of 'The Silmarillion'. I believe that some of the later editions
of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
/The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?

Well, enough from me! Let the discussions commence!

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard


gp.skinner

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Oct 18, 2005, 5:37:05 AM10/18/05
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> And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
> of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
> the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I know a lot of people class LOTR as a darker work, but I'd not be one of them.



> There are, however, fundamental differences that set this work
> (published in 1977) apart from the other two (published in 1937 and
> 1954/5). First, and most importantly, it was published after the death
> of its author. Indeed, this is the first point that is made in the
> 'Foreword' to /The Silmarillion/, where Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.
> Tolkien's youngest son, goes on to say that:
> "On my father's death it fell to me to try to bring the work into
> publishable form."

I wonder how many people think that the Silmarillion is now in a form that JRRT would have been happy with, I'd say he'd still be revising it now (aged 113 he'd prob. need good glasses) if he had the chance. Or would he go back and rewrite the whole lot so that the writing style is the same throughout?

> In the rest of the 'Foreword', Christopher Tolkien introduces the
> material presented, gives some of the history of the writing and
> publication of /The Silmarillion/, and explains some of the problems he
> faced in preparing it for publication.
> Before we begin the discussions, over the coming months, of the material
> published in 1977 as /The Silmarillion/, a brief look at some of the
> issues raised in Christopher Tolkien's 'Foreword' may help to place the
> material in context.
> As well as being published posthumously and edited by both Christopher
> Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay, the material in /The Silmarillion/ is
> different in tone and style from the other works, being mostly a
> compendium of the legends of the First Age, as opposed to /The Lord of
> the Rings/, which is a narrative tale from the Third Age. Also, the
> writing of the Silmarillion material by Tolkien had a long history:
> "...although it was not then called /The Silmarillion/, it was already
> in being half a century ago; and in battered notebooks extending back to
> 1917 can still be read the earliest versions, often hastily pencilled,
> of the central stories of the mythology [...] throughout my father's
> long life he never abandoned it, nor ceased even in his last years to
> work on it..."

Perhaps because it was in such a form ("compendium of the legends") brought JRRT more difficulty in the end in bringing it to a form that could be published. If he was working on it throughout his life (from 1917 on) the style must in some way have changed along the way, and we don't know how TH/LOTR influenced his later writing style.

<snip>


> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

I was seven so it was a bit above me at the time, but any publisher upon reading the manuscript would surely have realized that it would not be as popular as either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings to the average fantasy literature fan. If you are an avid Hobbit/LOTR reader it may be a different matter, are there any comments or references to the feedback the book received when it was first published?

> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
> read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
> the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
> Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
> begin to understand HoME as well.

I always read from the very first page so I'll have read the Foreword first, just can't remember what I thought about it at the time (it was a while ago now!)

> In this post, I have only covered the 'Foreword' that appears in my
> edition of 'The Silmarillion'. I believe that some of the later editions
> of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
> letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
> /The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
> in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
> the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?

I have a few copies of the Silmarillion from 1st edition to the latest version so I'll have to compare when I get a chance (my Silmarillion collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I don't know the first thing about the language) .

Cheers
Graeme

Derek Broughton

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Oct 18, 2005, 9:13:59 AM10/18/05
to
gp.skinner wrote:

>> There are, however, fundamental differences that set this work
>> (published in 1977) apart from the other two (published in 1937 and
>> 1954/5). First, and most importantly, it was published after the death
>> of its author. Indeed, this is the first point that is made in the
>> 'Foreword' to /The Silmarillion/, where Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.
>> Tolkien's youngest son, goes on to say that:
>> "On my father's death it fell to me to try to bring the work into
>> publishable form."
>
> I wonder how many people think that the Silmarillion is now in a form that
> JRRT would have been happy with, I'd say he'd still be revising it now
> (aged 113 he'd prob. need good glasses) if he had the chance.

I have no doubt that it could never have been published in JRRT's lifetime,
no matter how long he'd lived. He'd had longer to do the job than he had
for LOTR, and if he couldn't be happy with it in that time, I doubt he
could ever have been happy. Christopher Tolkien is no longer happy with
the job he did - but he had to start somewhere, we wanted the Silmarillion,
and I think he & Guy Kay did a pretty good job, even if they'd have done it
differently later.

>> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
>> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
>> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
>> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
>> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
>> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
>> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
>> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
>> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

I was 19. I waited for it every bit as eagerly as any kid today waiting for
the new Harry Potter. I lined up at the "World's Biggest Book Store" in
Toronto to get it (fortunately, we didn't do midnight releases in those
days!). I think it was awaited with very much the same attitude that
Tolkien lovers awaited the first release of Jackson's movie - and got very
much the same reception. There were complaints (valid) that it wasn't true
to JRRT. There were cheers (equally valid) that it _was_ true to JRRT!



> I was seven so it was a bit above me at the time, but any publisher upon
> reading the manuscript would surely have realized that it would not be as
> popular as either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings to the average fantasy
> literature fan.

I'm sure the publisher did realize that - but they also knew that by any
ordinary standards it was going to be a big hit. They probably only had to
sell one for every 10 LOTRs they'd sold to make the bestseller lists.

>> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
>> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/?

Absolutely. I read every word - the first time I'd ever done that on a
"first read" (I'm sure by that point I'd already read every single word of
LOTR, because I'd read that at least 7 times).



> I always read from the very first page so I'll have read the Foreword
> first, just can't remember what I thought about it at the time (it was a
> while ago now!)
>

> I have a few copies of the Silmarillion from 1st edition to the latest
> version so I'll have to compare when I get a chance (my Silmarillion
> collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I don't know the
> first thing about the language) .

I only have the first edition. It occurs to me that it's probably the
_only_ first edition I own :-)
--
derek

John W. Kennedy

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Oct 18, 2005, 12:45:14 PM10/18/05
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s).

Well of bloody /course/ it was eagerly awaited!

> Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

I was 29, and I grabbed it fast as possible. In fact, I read the front
matter and the first few chapters sitting in my car outside the bookstore.

> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/?

I don't off-hand specifically /remember/, but I certainly did. I have
always read forewords, prefaces, and introductions, even when I was a
young child. That's what they're there for. (I would even read the
occasional "Foreword for parents and teachers".)

--
John W. Kennedy
"...if you had to fall in love with someone who was evil, I can see why
it was her."
-- "Alias"

Derek Broughton

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 12:59:41 PM10/18/05
to
John W. Kennedy wrote:

> I don't off-hand specifically /remember/, but I certainly did. I have
> always read forewords, prefaces, and introductions, even when I was a
> young child. That's what they're there for. (I would even read the
> occasional "Foreword for parents and teachers".)
>

Especially those! That's the stuff they're trying to hide from the kids :-)
--
derek

Henriette

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Oct 18, 2005, 1:29:43 PM10/18/05
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gp.skinner schreef:

> I always read from the very first page so I'll have read the Foreword first, just can't remember what I thought about it at the time (it was a while ago now!)

I think I'll have read a " Foreword" consisting of three pages and
written by The Christopher Tolkien any time, but I can't remember.

Were you named after Christopher Tolkien, Christopher?

> I have a few copies of the Silmarillion from 1st edition to the latest version so I'll have to compare when I get a chance (my Silmarillion collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I don't know the first thing about the language) .

LOL, Here's the true collector!

Henriette

Steuard Jensen

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Oct 18, 2005, 2:56:37 PM10/18/05
to
I figure I can start with a little story. When I was a kid (this
couldn't have been past second grade, based on who my neighbors were
at the time), I was already pretty a big Tolkien fan; I'd read LotR at
least once and loved it. At any rate, I was over at a neighbor's
house with some friends. I think we were roughhousing or something,
when an older friend said, "Look, Steuard, it's a different Tolkien
book."

Once he convinced me that he wasn't just trying a very personalized
version of "your shoe's untied" to put me off my guard, I went over
and looked. Sure enough, it was something entirely new and different:
"The Silmarillion". There was a picture on the cover of some sort of
stormy mountain path, I think. I was incredibly excited, but it took
me quite some time before I tracked down a copy of my own at a local
library. Probably several years; I don't think I read Silm. before
sixth grade. (I rather doubt that I _could_ have read Silm. much
earlier than that! And even so, I'm sure that there was a lot that I
didn't entirely follow my first time through.)

Quoth "Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> in article
<E625f.131293$G8.9...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>:


> Also, the writing of the Silmarillion material by Tolkien had a long
> history:
>
> "...although it was not then called /The Silmarillion/, it was already
> in being half a century ago; and in battered notebooks extending back to
> 1917 can still be read the earliest versions, often hastily pencilled,
> of the central stories of the mythology [...] throughout my father's
> long life he never abandoned it, nor ceased even in his last years to
> work on it..."

Clearly, what Christopher _meant_ to say here was

"...of course, it was not then /The Silmarillion/, although one
distinct mythology was in being half a century ago; and in battered


notebooks extending back to 1917 can still be read the earliest

versions... of the central stories of that original muthology [...]
throughout my father's long life he repeatedly abandoned it, and
continued even in his last years to start from scratch..."

Oh, wait. :) I guess if Christopher Tolkien had wanted to say that,
he would have. Never mind. (My apologies to those who aren't
embittered about certain old "discussions" here, and who are thus
fortunate enough not to know what I'm talking about. :P )

> Indeed, though published after /The Hobbit/ and /The Lord of the Rings/,
> Christopher Tolkien emphasises that /The Silmarillion/ is:
>
> "...in all the essentials of its conception, far the earlier work..."

Again making it clear, for example, that he viewed the post-LotR
writings that formed most of the published /Silmarillion/ as "in all
the essentials" the same as the early pre-LotR writings that they so
resemble.

Ok, I'll shut up about this now. :)

> "[four other short works] are included according to my father's explicit
> intention; and by their inclusion the entire history is set forth from
> the Music of the Ainur in which the world began to the passing of the
> Ringbearers from the havens of Mithlond at the end of the Third Age."

This might be an interesting point to mention a relevant discussion
from my FAQ. I apologize for its length, and for the fact that it
jumps ahead a little, but it seems quite relevant to this discussion:


-------
III.A.3. How does _The Silmarillion_ as published differ from what
Tolkien intended?

This is a complicated question that is essentially unanswerable:
despite his lifelong effort, Tolkien never came close to completing
_The Silmarillion_. At Tolkien's request, after his death his son
Christopher (with some help from Guy Kay) worked to "bring the work
into publishable form"; Christopher discusses the difficulties
involved in the book's Foreword. To understand why _The Silmarillion_
took the form that it did (any why it is rarely considered
"canonical", as mentioned in question III.A.2), it is worth exploring
those editorial changes. [The full story can be found in the "History
of Middle-earth" books, particularly _Morgoth's Ring_ and _The War of
the Jewels_ (volumes X-XI).]

The most basic editorial decision was which writings to include in
the book at all. The "Quenta Silmarillion" is of course the central
text, but Tolkien also wrote numerous associated stories and essays.
Charles Noad explored this question as part of his essay "On the
Construction of 'The Silmarillion'" (published in _Tolkien's
Legendarium_; see question III.A.5), where he suggests an "outline for
'The Silmarillion' as Tolkien may have intended it". In addition to
the texts in the published book, Noad includes expanded versions of
four stories: "The Lay of Leithian" (possibly in poetic form), "Narn i
Chin Hurin", "The Fall of Gondolin", and "Earendil the Wanderer"
(which Tolkien never even fully sketched). He also includes five
"Appendices": writings about Middle-earth and its inhabitants such as
"Laws and Customs among the Eldar" and the "Athrabeth Finrod ah
Andreth" (most of these were published in HoMe X-XI). Sadly, a book
with this outline could never be made satisfying with just the texts
that Tolkien left us.

Moving on to the texts that were actually included in _The
Silmarillion_ as published, there were three types of problems to
overcome. In the worst cases, there were crucial gaps in the
narrative where Tolkien had never written more than an outline of the
story (or where the most recent version was hopelessly outdated). Much
more frequently, Tolkien's years of revisions led to factual
inconsistencies between stories written at various times (especially
between writings before and after _The Lord of the Rings_). And
finally, Tolkien's writings differed markedly in tone, ranging from
vivid narratives to terse annals to philosophical essays. To assemble
a single text, consistent in style and detail, from such a range of
source material clearly required substantial editing.

Despite that pessimistic assessment, the vast majority of the
published _Silmarillion_ is taken directly from Tolkien's work and
seems to come quite close to what he intended, as far as it
goes. (None of the "expanded" tales were ever completed, but what
exists of them can be found for the most part in _Unfinished Tales_,
_The Lays of Beleriand_, and the other "History of Middle-earth" books
mentioned above.) Still, mild editing is not uncommon, and can be
difficult to identify even by comparison to the source texts as
published in HoMe. Thus, _The Silmarillion_ is often not treated as a
final authority in scholarly discussions of Middle-earth. (A classic
example is its mistaken ancestry of Gil-galad, as discussed in
question III.B.8.)

The greatest concern, of course, comes from those few cases where
large gaps had to be filled by the editors. This happened to some
extent for "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin" and "Of the Voyage of
Earendil and the War of Wrath", but the most substantial editorial
"invention" came in the chapter "Of the Ruin of Doriath". The episode
was of crucial importance and thus could not be left out or glossed
over, but Tolkien had written almost no description of the event since
1930 (long before even _The Hobbit_ was published) and the mythology
had changed drastically since then. Moreover, Tolkien was never happy
with some aspects of the story, in particular with the question of how
the Dwarves could invade Doriath despite the Girdle of Melian. The
published version was directly inspired by some of Tolkien's drafts of
the tale (those which seemed easiest to reconcile with the rest of the
story), but was essentially rewritten to be consistent with the rest
of the book and to include a few ideas from Tolkien's later writings.
That meant some major changes: for example, in Tolkien's own drafts,
the Nauglamir did not exist before it was made to hold the Silmaril
(out of raw gold from Nargothrond), and Thingol was not slain until
the full Dwarvish army attacked.

In his comments on "Of the Ruin of Doriath" (an appendix to "The
Tale of Years" in _The War of the Jewels_), Christopher Tolkien
concludes with the regret that "the undoubted difficulties could have
been, and should have been, surmounted without so far overstepping the
bounds of the editorial function." Elsewhere in that book, at the end
of the section "The Wanderings of Hurin", he speaks of other omissions
and alterations, and says,

it seems to me now, many years later, to have been an excessive
tampering with my father's actual thought and intention: thus
raising the question, whether the attempt to make a 'unified'
_Silmarillion_ should have been embarked on.

Whatever failings _The Silmarillion_ as published may have, I think
that most of its readers are grateful to have it, and would assure
Christopher Tolkien that his work was worthwhile. He undertook a
great task in bringing it to print, and despite his later misgivings I
think most would agree that he did an excellent job.
-------

> How successful _was_ /The Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was
> eagerly awaited by fans, and some fans even speculated about what
> would be contained in /The Silmarillion/

I seem to recall some wildly inaccurate speculation in an old book
about LotR that I've read (quite possibly Carter's /A Look Behind The
Lord of the Rings/). Despite what I've always viewed as fairly direct
statements about what Silm. contained in Appendix A of LotR (I should
double check that...), this book asserted that it would actually tell
the story of Isildur, or something like that. I was never really
clear on what led the author to such a wrong conclusion, but I
certainly recognized that I was working with the benefit of hindsight.

> Does anyone remember reading the 'Foreword' the first time you read
> /The Silmarillion/?

I probably struggled through it, but I don't have any memory of it
from the time. I don't have any clear memory of when it started to
really make sense to me, but I'm sure that I didn't really follow what
it meant until I'd at least started reading HoMe.

> I believe that some of the later editions of /The Silmarillion/
> include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a letter that Tolkien
> wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get /The Silmarillion/
> published. Apparently, including parts of this letter in the
> 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for the
> reader.

I'm really not at all concerned about spoiling the plot of Silm. for
the reader. :) /The Hobbit/ "spoils" one of the most dramatic
stories, because when it speaks of Gondolin (which was such an
evocative reference!) it tells us that "goblins sacked that city long
ago" (quote from memory). And of course LotR spoils another key
episode, the tale of Beren and Luthien, when Aragorn sings his
ultra-abridged song. Elrond gives away the end of the War of Wrath at
the Council. The Akallabeth is thoroughly spoiled by LotR, especially
by the Appendices (though the main text is bad enough).

You see my point: the most common path to discovering Middle-earth
(and in my opinion the best one) introduces readers to many glimpses
of older history along the way. It's fantastically beautiful and
mysterious! But everything about Middle-earth in the Third Age has
implications for how things must have turned out in the First and
Second. So worrying too much about spoilers for Silm. seems
unnecessary.

I can imagine some counterarguments, though, so if you disagree I'm
eager to hear it! :)

Steuard Jensen

aelfwina

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Oct 18, 2005, 2:54:07 PM10/18/05
to

"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in message
news:E625f.131293$G8.9...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk...

[snip]

> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)
>

I was 25. My husband and I were newlyweds of one year, and the price of the
hardback book was a considerable chunk from our budget, yet we eagerly
shelled out. He was disappointed, and I think has yet to read it in its
entirety.

I was mildly disappointed, for the style was so markedly different from
LotR. Yet I did read and enjoy it, as it filled in many of the blanks JRRT
had only hinted at before. Still, unlike LotR and TH, which I have read
over and over too many times to count, this reading for CotW of The Silm
will only be my third.


> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
> read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
> the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
> Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
> begin to understand HoME as well.
>
> In this post, I have only covered the 'Foreword' that appears in my
> edition of 'The Silmarillion'. I believe that some of the later editions
> of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
> letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
> /The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
> in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
> the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?
>
> Well, enough from me! Let the discussions commence!

I always read a "Foreword" if it's included in a book, but I cannot at this
time recall what my reaction was in 1977.

Barbara

Gary Thompson

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 3:15:01 PM10/18/05
to

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
>
> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/?

Depends on what you mean by successful. I have worked for two used
bookstores, both of which quit buying copies of _Silm_. The first
American Edition obviously had a huge print run, and is consequently
very common. I've always been under the impression that, even if many
copies have been purchased, a large percentage of them were put down in
frustration, given away, or sold.

So while sales figures may be high, reading numbers are probably very
low.

But that just means cheap hardcovers for me ;)

Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 4:04:20 PM10/18/05
to
Dateline Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT from Christopher Kreuzer
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk>:

> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

Well, since you asked--

I read LotR as a high-school junior in 1966, and co-founded my high
school's Tolkien Society. On subsequent readings I paid more
attention to the Appendices, particularly the Tale of Years with its
"lore" -- I can still remember "the Valar laid down their
Guardianship and called upon the One," when Ar-Pharazon invaded
Valinor, and I wanted to know more about the Valar and the One and
their guardianship.

This extra "lore", the back story, was promised in /Silmarillion/. I
would say it was only a minority of LotR readers who cared about it,
but a minority of a very large number can be a large number. I for
one eagerly awaited publication, but as the years wore on I more or
less forgot about it.

I know when my sister gave me the first edition in Silm in 1977, I
was incredibly excited. I did read the Foreword; I almost always read
introductory matter in books. But with Ainulindale and especially
Valaquenta I really bogged down -- too boring; nothing was
_happening_. As Alice said, "What's the use of a book without
pictures or conversations?" (I was much younger then, not yet
thirty.)

It was a few months later that I returned to the book and started
again, skipping Ainulindale and Valaquenta for the time being and
diving into the beginning of the Quenta. This really captivated me,
and as soon as I'd finished it I went back to those two leading
sections, then to "Rings of Power". Almost immediately I found that I
enjoyed Silm with its "higher style" more than LotR, because Silm was
almost completely what I had liked best about LotR: the clash of high
principles, the moral dilemmas, and the "lore".

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 4:09:01 PM10/18/05
to
Dateline Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT from Christopher Kreuzer
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk>:
> I believe that some of the later editions
> of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
> letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
> /The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
> in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
> the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?

Yes, it was (part of) Letter 131, the "Sketch of the Mythology",
which went on for some 10,000 words. It was almost as detailed as the
"Rings of Power" section of Silm but covered the entire history of
Arda from creation up to the start of the Fourth Age. I haven't seen
this "second edition" personally, but it's been discussed here on
occasion.

Apart from the "spoiler" aspect (on which I agree with you), it
strikes me as shabby to add some previously published external
material to Silm and then call it a "new editon".

Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 4:10:21 PM10/18/05
to
Dateline Tue, 18 Oct 2005 10:37:05 +0100 from gp.skinner
<gp.sk...@nospam.talk21.com>:

> I wonder how many people think that the Silmarillion is now in a form that JRRT would have been happy with, I'd say he'd still be revising it now (aged 113 he'd prob. need good glasses) if he had the chance. Or would he go back and rewrite the whole lot so that the writing style is the same throughout?

Could you please set your line lengths to something reasonable, say
65-72 characters? It's very fatiguing to scroll constantly back and
forth to read your article.

Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 4:25:09 PM10/18/05
to
Dateline Tue, 18 Oct 2005 18:56:37 GMT from Steuard Jensen
<sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu>:

> I figure I can start with a little story. When I was a kid (this
> couldn't have been past second grade, based on who my neighbors were
> at the time), I was already pretty a big Tolkien fan; I'd read LotR at
> least once and loved it.

Wow -- LotR at age 7. I'm impressed! A big reader myself as a child,
I'm not sure I'd have managed that. (I was about to write "even if
LotR had been available", but it was, though not at all well known in
the US in 1956-57.)


> This might be an interesting point to mention a relevant discussion
> from my FAQ.
>

> -------
> III.A.3. How does _The Silmarillion_ as published differ from what
> Tolkien intended?
>
> This is a complicated question that is essentially unanswerable:
> despite his lifelong effort, Tolkien never came close to completing
> _The Silmarillion_. At Tolkien's request, after his death his son
> Christopher (with some help from Guy Kay) worked to "bring the work
> into publishable form"; Christopher discusses the difficulties
> involved in the book's Foreword. To understand why _The Silmarillion_
> took the form that it did (any why it is rarely considered

Typo alert! That should be "and why". It's also a typo on the Web
page, <http://tolkien.slimy.com/faq/External.html#SilmChanges>.

You might want, as long as you have to edit that page anyway, to add
a few words about CRT's "included according to my father's explicit
intention" comment in the Foreword.

> Whatever failings _The Silmarillion_ as published may have, I think
> that most of its readers are grateful to have it, and would assure
> Christopher Tolkien that his work was worthwhile. He undertook a
> great task in bringing it to print, and despite his later misgivings I
> think most would agree that he did an excellent job.

Amen, amen, amen! My life would be the poorer without it. It's one of
the favo(u)rite books I return to every year or so.

> I'm really not at all concerned about spoiling the plot of Silm. for
> the reader. :) /The Hobbit/ "spoils" one of the most dramatic
> stories, because when it speaks of Gondolin (which was such an
> evocative reference!) it tells us that "goblins sacked that city long
> ago" (quote from memory).

The title of Silm Chapter 23, "Of Tuor and the FALL of Gondolin",
also gives it away. :-)

Speaking for myself, though, I was so caught up in the story that I
pretty much forgot what I had read in LotR and the Hobbit. It wasn't
till a 1990 or so that I really _read_ the poems in LotR; and the
Beren-and-Luthien bits in LotR didn't make that great an impression
on me till I had the benefit of Silm to see what Tolkien was talking
about.

Raven

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 5:23:20 PM10/18/05
to
"gp.skinner" <gp.sk...@nospam.talk21.com> skrev i en meddelelse
news:dj2fo8$f71$1...@news7.svr.pol.co.uk...

> (my Silmarillion collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I
> don't know the first thing about the language) .

Sure it isn't the Quenya version? :-)

Korppi.


Prai Jei

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 5:37:16 PM10/18/05
to
Christopher Kreuzer (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in
message <E625f.131293$G8.9...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>:

> Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

Got mine on the first day (15 September 1977), back in my student days.



> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
> read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
> the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
> Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
> begin to understand HoME as well.

Rather like the Appendices of LotR. I read the Foreword first to see what
Christopher had unleashed upon the world, then having read the stories, I
did indeed read the Foreword again as part of the next cycle of reading.

> In this post, I have only covered the 'Foreword' that appears in my
> edition of 'The Silmarillion'. I believe that some of the later editions
> of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
> letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
> /The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
> in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
> the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?

Not in my copy, the Forward is just 2.5 pages long. How long is the Foreword
in the later printings?
--
There are very few spiders found on bananas that bite.

Interchange the alphabetic letter groups to reply

Prai Jei

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 5:49:47 PM10/18/05
to
gp.skinner (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<dj2fo8$f71$1...@news7.svr.pol.co.uk>:

> I have a few copies of the Silmarillion from 1st edition to the latest
> version so I'll have to compare when I get a chance (my Silmarillion
> collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I don't know the
> first thing about the language) .

Minä puhun suomen kieltä vähän :) Would you contemplate a sale?

Gregory Hernandez

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 10:32:31 PM10/18/05
to
I got the Silmarillion when it first came out -- I was I think 13 at the
time -- and it was the first book of Tolkien's I read. To me it was reading
another world's version of Bulfinch's mythology. I read the foreward and as
it came before the other books, I figured it would be best to begin there.
Unfortunately, when it came time to read the Hobbit, the next book in order
chronologically, the drastic change in tone was offputting. I hated the
Hobbit at first and put it down after a few pages...if I even got that far.
I returned to the Hobbit eventually and muddled through it. I figured I
would go ahead with the third novel, but boy was I dreading it -- it looked
to be the size of the Oxford English Dictionary! Well, needless to say, I
devoured the LotR, and here I am x number of years later, reading all the
books again (still haven't quite made it through to the rereading of the
Hobbit, but I will, I swear!).

Looking forward to this discussion of the Silmarillion to tell the truth.
It's still my favorite book.

GRH


Robert J. Kolker

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 10:34:49 PM10/18/05
to
Gregory Hernandez wrote:
> Looking forward to this discussion of the Silmarillion to tell the truth.
> It's still my favorite book.

Even so, it is not best to read The Sil first. The Sil is best
understood as the back story for LOTR.

Bob Kolker

Message has been deleted

Count Menelvagor

unread,
Oct 18, 2005, 11:30:59 PM10/18/05
to

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
> And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
> of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
> the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was
> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)
>
> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
> read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
> the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
> Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
> begin to understand HoME as well.

i was 13ish, but i don't think i actually read it till i was 14. at 13
i was still absorbing LOTR. i was interested, but slightly
disappointed at 1st; the beginning and large swaths of the middle are
heavy going, and my reaction was something along the lines of "what IS
this?" i think this was partly stylistic (not that archaism itself was
a problem; more the characters' remoteness) and partly the difficulty
in figuring out exactly how it related to LOTR. the later parts were
much better. turin, in particular, is excellent; but the whole
overhanging doom aspect in the later chapters, coupled with glimmers of
hope ("auta i lome") was very moving. i think tolkien was more engaged
in that part of the narrative; and it's also closer in themes to LOTR.
and the style, i think, becomes more incisive: "tell the morrmegil that
finduilas is here."

i think i enjoyed the later additional stories, esp. akallabeth, more
than the silm proper.

i always read forewords.

as far as reading before hobbit and LOTR: i really wdn't recommend it.
silm is much less immediately acessible; there's no one to carry outt
he mediating function of the hobbits. also, one doesn't really need
to; LOTR is intelligible enough without it, and one can always reread
it in light of silm. and the allusiveness and mysteriousness of the
silm references in LOTR is part of their appeal IMO.

gp.skinner

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 3:02:22 AM10/19/05
to
>> I have a few copies of the Silmarillion from 1st edition to the latest
>> version so I'll have to compare when I get a chance (my Silmarillion
>> collection includes one in Finnish for some reason and I don't know the
>> first thing about the language) .
> Minä puhun suomen kieltä vähän :) Would you contemplate a sale?

What! And break up the collection?

Graeme

gp.skinner

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 3:05:40 AM10/19/05
to
> Could you please set your line lengths to something reasonable,
> say
> 65-72 characters? It's very fatiguing to scroll constantly back
> and
> forth to read your article.

It was set to wrap at 62 but for some reason OutlawExpress
changes its mind about settings at random.
For example, replying to email in OE is a nightmare as it won't
indent the previous message with '>' whatever setting you
use. Will be using somethingelse shortly I think!

Graeme


Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 12:08:49 PM10/19/05
to
Wed, 19 Oct 2005 08:05:40 +0100 from gp.skinner
<gp.sk...@nospam.talk21.com>:

> It was set to wrap at 62 but for some reason OutlawExpress
> changes its mind about settings at random.
> For example, replying to email in OE is a nightmare as it won't
> indent the previous message with '>' whatever setting you
> use. Will be using somethingelse shortly I think!

Despite its not being the best newsreader, many many people use OE.
Do a Google search in this newsgroup for some hints about how to set
it up. (And look for OE QuoteFix, which fixes an annoying bug in the
way it handles quoted matter.)

Chris Kern

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 5:43:04 PM10/19/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 18:56:37 GMT, sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu
(Steuard Jensen) posted the following:

> The most basic editorial decision was which writings to include in
>the book at all. The "Quenta Silmarillion" is of course the central
>text,

Although it is worth pointing out that even the Quenta Silmarillion
appearing in the book is quite different from Tolkien's version.
Tolkien's QS never contained any chapters called "Of Aule and
Yavanna", "Of the Beginning of Days", "Of the Noldor in Beleriand", or
"Of Maeglin". It did, however, contain a chapter called "Concerning
the Dwarves" (or maybe "Of Dwarves and Men") which does not appear in
CT's edition. The material for all these chapters of course does come
from Tolkien's writings, but CT cobbled it all together into one
source.

-Chris

Chris Kern

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 5:55:04 PM10/19/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted the following:

>And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
>of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
>the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.

After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)

I am going to use the term "The Silmarillion" to refer to the book
that Christopher Tolkien edited, and Quenta Silmarillion to refer to
Tolkien's QS writing.

>"On my father's death it fell to me to try to bring the work into
>publishable form."

This is something that is worth emphasizing. Many readers seem to
have the idea that the Silmarillion was basically finished upon
Tolkien's death and that CT just had to dust it off and fix a few
spelling mistakes. But examination of the source texts in HoME shows
that nothing could be further from the truth -- the Quenta
Silmarillion and its related writings were in a complete shambles upon
Tolkien's death, and it was a monumental task for CT to prepare The
Silmarillion.

>As well as being published posthumously and edited by both Christopher
>Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay,

How much work did GGK do? We know he collaborated on the Ruin of
Doriath chapter, but beyond that it's unclear exactly what his role
was.

>We are also told how Christopher Tolkien has carried out J.R.R.
>Tolkien's plan to place /The Lord of the Rings/ in its historical
>context within this material:
>
>"[four other short works] are included according to my father's explicit
>intention; and by their inclusion the entire history is set forth from
>the Music of the Ainur in which the world began to the passing of the
>Ringbearers from the havens of Mithlond at the end of the Third Age."

One thing that is missing is a place for the text in the imagined
world. CT makes numerous comments to this throughout HoME and you can
detect a sense of regret in this, but there really is no clear answer.
For many decades the idea was that the QS was a modern translation of
an Old English work by a mariner called AElfwine or Eriol who sailed
to Tol Eressea and wrote down the stories he was told there. It's
unclear whether Tolkien ever really rejected this idea, although there
are suggestions that he did. CT mentions in the introduction to the
Book of Lost Tales that he should have provided some framework, and he
seems to think that the QS should be thought of as a work of Bilbo's
(the "Translations from the Elvish" mentioned in the Foreword and
Appendices to LotR) that he compiled and translated in Rivendell.

>Another point that Christopher Tolkien raises, is that there was a lot
>of material that was not published:
>
>"There is indeed a wealth of unpublished writing by my father concerning
>the Three Ages, narrative, linguistic, historical, and philosophical,
>and I hope that it will prove possible to publish some of this at a
>later date."
>
>This "wealth of unpublished writing" turned out to be a rather
>understated way of putting it! There turned out to be a volume of
>/Unfinished Tales/ plus 12 volumes of /The History of Middle-earth/. The
>important point here though, is that it seems probable that these
>further publications were only possible thanks to the success of /The
>Silmarillion/.

Definitely.

>In this post, I have only covered the 'Foreword' that appears in my
>edition of 'The Silmarillion'. I believe that some of the later editions
>of /The Silmarillion/ include, in the 'Foreword', large parts of a
>letter that Tolkien wrote to Milton Waldman when he was trying to get
>/The Silmarillion/ published. Apparently, including parts of this letter
>in the 'Foreword' had the unfortunate effect of spoiling the plot for
>the reader. Does anyone here have any further details about this?

CT seems to have included this to make up for the lack of framework --
the letter was written by Tolkien in order to explain the unity of the
Silmarillion and LotR to a publisher who he hoped would publish both
works. Perhaps CT feels that this provides a good explanation for the
importance of the text.

-Chris

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 7:02:10 PM10/19/05
to
Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
> <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted the following:
>
>> And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker"
>> tale of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the
>> last of the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
>
> After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)

Someone mentioned /Unfinished Tales/, which would be good practice for
HoME, as we'd get to grapple with Christopher Tolkien's endnotes.
Personally, I think HoME can't really be treated like these CotW
discussions, and the best way to tackle them, if anything, would be
(when the time comes) for those who have read them to select coherent,
complete, self-contained texts and passages that could be usefully
discussed. That would result in a fairly long list, which could then be
tackled. Slowly. Carefully!

And the (totally unintended!) side-effect of this would be to generate a
reading list for me to restart my readings of HoME. I wonder what that
sort of list (generated by the newsgroups) would look like when compared
to Steuard's Custom Book List (I've linked to the default one):

http://tolkien.slimy.com/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/~steuard/booklist.pl

> I am going to use the term "The Silmarillion" to refer to the book
> that Christopher Tolkien edited, and Quenta Silmarillion to refer to
> Tolkien's QS writing.

This might be a good point to mention the standard academic convention
to distinguish between the published (or '1977') Silmarillion and the
general legendarium of Silmarillion writings:

- the Silmarillion (no italics, small 't')
- /The Silmarillion/ (italics, capitalised)

Where the Silmarillion is the 'legendarium' or "body of stories and
poems developed over many years by Tolkien"; and /The Silmarillion/
indicates the volume published in 1977.

This is complicated by the need to sometimes refer to various versions
of Quenta Silmarillion and Silmarillion sketches and attempts by Tolkien
to produce a Silmarillion for publication. These can be defined by the
writer and referred to by a term like "1937 Quenta Silmarillion" (which
I just made up). Though it seems the best way forward in those cases is
to use the terms that Christopher Tolkien uses in HoME, unless the terms
he uses are unclear...

>> "On my father's death it fell to me to try to bring the work into
>> publishable form."
>
> This is something that is worth emphasizing. Many readers seem to
> have the idea that the Silmarillion was basically finished upon
> Tolkien's death and that CT just had to dust it off and fix a few
> spelling mistakes. But examination of the source texts in HoME shows
> that nothing could be further from the truth -- the Quenta
> Silmarillion and its related writings were in a complete shambles upon
> Tolkien's death, and it was a monumental task for CT to prepare The
> Silmarillion.

Now I _really_ have to remember where I read the story about Christopher
Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay working in a barn, with papers strewn over
many desks, as they started to try and sort all the manuscripts and make
order from chaos...

>> As well as being published posthumously and edited by both
>> Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay,
>
> How much work did GGK do? We know he collaborated on the Ruin of
> Doriath chapter, but beyond that it's unclear exactly what his role
> was.

I believe he was involved in helping from fairly early on, maybe from
the beginning. But I'm not sure about that.

<snip framework stuff>

I agree that the lack of a framework is noticeable, but does it matter
that much? Interesting idea that including Letter 131 was to provide
such a framework.

An important point I read in a paper recently, was that the "Bilbo's
translations from the Elvish" bit in LotR was written by J.R.R. Tolkien
in reference to the Silmarillion that J.R.R. Tolkien thought _he_ would
produce. So this phrase actually refers to something that never got
published. What _was_ published was the Silmarillion that Christopher
Tolkien produced. There is a disconnect between the two.

Chris Kern

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 8:10:55 PM10/19/05
to
On Wed, 19 Oct 2005 23:02:10 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted the following:

>Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
>> <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted the following:
>>
>>> And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker"
>>> tale of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the
>>> last of the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
>>
>> After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)
>
>Someone mentioned /Unfinished Tales/, which would be good practice for
>HoME, as we'd get to grapple with Christopher Tolkien's endnotes.
>Personally, I think HoME can't really be treated like these CotW
>discussions,

I think that at least some of it could. The Book of Lost Tales, at
least, shouldn't be too hard to do CotW style.

-Chris

Glenn Holliday

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 8:37:04 PM10/19/05
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
>
> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The
> Silmarillion/?

There was a lot of buzz about it. When "The Sword of Shannara" was
published, it was advertised with a big poster that said
"While you're waiting for The Silmarillion, read The Sword of Shannara".
I don't think anybody realized what it would be like. Most people
were expecting something more like LOTR. So yes, people who
thought that expected it to have comparable success.

> Is there anyone here
> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
> 1977?

When I learned the release date, I hung out at my local bookstore
on the day. I heard the truck coming into the loading dock and
waited by the stock door. I got the first copy out of the first
box.

Yes, I read the forward. I expected it to have some insight
into JRRT and the work. It did, but I didn't understand what
CT was really talking about until years later.

I recognized immediately that The Silmarillion was a mythology
rather than a novel. That appealed to me. I immediately
connected The Silmarillion to On Fairy Stories. It was
easy to learn from The Silmarillion a lot about JRRT as the
mythmaker. Those lessons influence my relationship to myth
in my own life.

So I've always told people that LOTR is better and more
enjoyable literature, but The Silmarillion had the larger
influence on me.

--
Glenn Holliday holl...@acm.org

Gregory Hernandez

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 9:15:46 PM10/19/05
to
"Robert J. Kolker" wrote:
> Even so, it is not best to read The Sil first. The Sil is best understood
> as the back story for LOTR.
>
Didn't know that at the time. I will say this however: having read the
Silmarillion first, one does see how many times the events therein are
referenced in the Lord of the Rings. I liken it to reading the Bible as an
adult -- one sees how many common phrases and events that are referred to in
our day to day life have their origins there.

All Best,
GRH


Graham Lockwood

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 9:47:48 PM10/19/05
to
On Wed, 19 Oct 2005 19:37:04 -0500, Glenn Holliday wrote
{snip}

> I recognized immediately that The Silmarillion was a mythology
> rather than a novel. That appealed to me. I immediately
> connected The Silmarillion to On Fairy Stories. It was
> easy to learn from The Silmarillion a lot about JRRT as the
> mythmaker. Those lessons influence my relationship to myth
> in my own life.
{snip}

I read the Sil when I was 12 and also recognized it as mythology. I had
already read a good deal of Greek/Roman mythology as well as some kids books
about the Bible (which I treated like mythology), and both sets of stories
are just as "dark" and "complicated" as the Sil is.

---
Graham

er...@swva.net

unread,
Oct 19, 2005, 11:15:28 PM10/19/05
to
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:

(snip)

>
> Which raises another point. Was /The Silmarillion/ expected to be as
> successful as /The Lord of the Rings/? How successful _was_ /The

> Silmarillion/? I have heard that it was eagerly awaited by fans, and
> some fans even speculated about what would be contained in /The
> Silmarillion/ (based on hints from /The Lord of the Rings/ and reports
> from those who had read copies that circulated while Tolkien was

> attempting to have it published back in the 1950s). Is there anyone here


> who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in

> 1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

Eagerly awaited! We waited for _years_! I didn't get the first book
off the truck, but I got it the first week (I was 25 at the time). At
first it stumped me: what the? but then I got into the mythological
aspect, as many posters have already mentioned. I had loved mythology
since before I could read, and had also absorbed all those quirky
writers reissued by Lin Carter in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series,
like Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald, William Morrison, and Clark Ashton
Smith, so the style wasn't _that far off from things I had read. It
has ended up being my favorite overall of the Tolkien Books, although
Unfinished Tales and Lays of Beleriand are favorites. In the last five
years I have read it aloud to my wife three times. I have also read
aloud extensively from Unfinished Tales and Lays, and am currently
reading bits and pieces of Morgoth's Ring.

I originally read LOTR in eighth grade and had read it maybe three
times by the time I graduated High School in '71. By now I've read it
maybe eight times front to back and browsed it for several times that
many hours of reading. I read The Hobbit after I had read LOTR twice
and have only read it twice even now.

>
> And does anyone read the 'Foreword'? Does anyone remember reading the
> 'Foreword' the first time you read /The Silmarillion/? Or did you only
> read it properly afterwards? I personally didn't really understand what
> the 'Foreword' was about until I found out more about /The History of
> Middle-earth/ (HoME) series, and re-reading this 'Foreword' helped me
> begin to understand HoME as well.
>

I always read front material and commentary. Heck, may favorite part
of comic books was the letter column, with robots getting punched into
scrap a close second. <8^)

(snip)

Eric Root

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:40:37 AM10/20/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
>of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
>the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.

You do _Mr. Bliss_ a grave injustice, sir. Pistols at dawn! :-)

>There are, however, fundamental differences that set this work
>(published in 1977) apart from the other two (published in 1937 and
>1954/5). First, and most importantly, it was published after the death
>of its author.

Not so much that it was *published* after his death but that it was
prepared for publication after his death. Pretty much a necessity given
that he kept at revising the underlying foundations and adding to the
mythology instead of preparing it for publication.

>Another point that Christopher Tolkien raises, is that there was a lot
>of material that was not published:
>
>"There is indeed a wealth of unpublished writing by my father concerning
>the Three Ages, narrative, linguistic, historical, and philosophical,
>and I hope that it will prove possible to publish some of this at a
>later date."

And yet we still don't have Shopping Lists Written While Thinking About
Hobbits, HOME XXXVI!

>Is there anyone here
>who was around to read /The Silmarillion/ when it was first published in
>1977? (I confess I was only a few months old at the time.)

I was 10 at the time. I believe I first read the Silmarillion some time
in high school, so I didn't get to it right away.

>And does anyone read the 'Foreword'?

I generally read forewords, prefaces, introductions, and even
dedications. Either I like to read or I suffer from an
obsessive-compulsive disorder or perhaps I just think the author
wouldn't have bothered unless he had a reason.

--
R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:40:39 AM10/20/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 18:56:37 GMT, sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu (Steuard
Jensen) wrote:

>You see my point: the most common path to discovering Middle-earth
>(and in my opinion the best one) introduces readers to many glimpses
>of older history along the way. It's fantastically beautiful and
>mysterious! But everything about Middle-earth in the Third Age has
>implications for how things must have turned out in the First and
>Second. So worrying too much about spoilers for Silm. seems
>unnecessary.

But, but it's *spoiled*. I mean, you can't bear to read a history of the
Roman Empire, can you? I mean, you know it *falls* already! Just to take
one example.

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:40:40 AM10/20/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 16:25:09 -0400, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>Dateline Tue, 18 Oct 2005 18:56:37 GMT from Steuard Jensen
><sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu>:

>> I'm really not at all concerned about spoiling the plot of Silm. for


>> the reader. :) /The Hobbit/ "spoils" one of the most dramatic
>> stories, because when it speaks of Gondolin (which was such an
>> evocative reference!) it tells us that "goblins sacked that city long
>> ago" (quote from memory).
>
>The title of Silm Chapter 23, "Of Tuor and the FALL of Gondolin",
>also gives it away. :-)

It could have just been about how Tuor loved the leaves of Gondolin in
the Autumn!

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:40:48 AM10/20/05
to
On Wed, 19 Oct 2005 17:55:04 -0400, Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com>
wrote:

>On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
><spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted the following:
>
>>And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker" tale
>>of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the last of
>>the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
>
>After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)

Probably _Unfinished Tales_, I should think. Maybe with a break for some
shorter, possibly non-Middle-earth, work.

Graham Lockwood

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:57:18 AM10/20/05
to
On Thu, 20 Oct 2005 00:40:40 -0500, R. Dan Henry wrote

> On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 16:25:09 -0400, Stan Brown
{snip}

>> The title of Silm Chapter 23, "Of Tuor and the FALL of Gondolin",
>> also gives it away. :-)
>
> It could have just been about how Tuor loved the leaves of Gondolin in
> the Autumn!

I bet "The Fall of Doriath" was especially beautiful...

---
Graham

Graham Lockwood

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 1:58:11 AM10/20/05
to
On Thu, 20 Oct 2005 00:40:39 -0500, R. Dan Henry wrote
(in article <kebel1toi3gm2rua6...@4ax.com>):

Oh, man! I was just reading "History of the Roman Empire" and you had to go
ruin the ending or me!


---
Graham

Graham Lockwood

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 2:00:53 AM10/20/05
to
On Thu, 20 Oct 2005 00:40:37 -0500, R. Dan Henry wrote
{snip}

> And yet we still don't have Shopping Lists Written While Thinking About
> Hobbits, HOME XXXVI!
{snip}

Or the lengthy treatises written on the back of said shopping lists about the
Hobbit rules about signing certain documents in red ink and the connection to
signing in blood and the mostly forgotten but bloody past of the Hobbits!

---
Graham

Derek Broughton

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 8:18:16 AM10/20/05
to
Graham Lockwood wrote:

Well, then, imagine the misery of all the people who go to a librarian and
ask for a history of the Roman Empire and get directed to "The Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire"!
--
derek

Steuard Jensen

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 12:42:45 PM10/20/05
to
Quoth Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> in article
<apfdl19ksmhl8tj46...@4ax.com>:
> "Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> posted:

> >And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker"
> >tale of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the
> >last of the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.

> After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)

No, no! I continue to be amazed at the number of people who overlook
/Unfinished Tales/, one of the very best Tolkien books in existence.

Admittedly, I think that the majority of people on the newsgroups are
familiar with it, but I've seen lots of cases where people in other
discussion forums and even published guides to Tolkien's writings omit
it, or treat it as an afterthought. UT is better than Silm. in some
ways, and parts of it are probably an easier introduction to Tolkien's
posthumous works than Silm. is. (The early parts of Silm. have scared
off _lots_ of people. But UT can be read in practically any order at
all. You'd want to skip the First Age stories until reading Silm., of
course.)
Steuard Jensen

Steuard Jensen

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 12:45:33 PM10/20/05
to
Quoth Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> in article
<99fdl1hh6sh2ki8kk...@4ax.com>:

> (Steuard Jensen) posted the following:

> > The most basic editorial decision was which writings to include
> >in the book at all. The "Quenta Silmarillion" is of course the
> >central text,

> Although it is worth pointing out that even the Quenta Silmarillion
> appearing in the book is quite different from Tolkien's version.
> Tolkien's QS never contained any chapters called "Of Aule and
> Yavanna", "Of the Beginning of Days", "Of the Noldor in Beleriand",
> or "Of Maeglin".

This would be really helpful to point out, you're right. I'll add it
to my to-do list (though it's unlikely that I'll get it done before
this month's FAQ posting in two days! I have too much Real Work to
do).

> It did, however, contain a chapter called "Concerning the Dwarves"
> (or maybe "Of Dwarves and Men") which does not appear in CT's
> edition.

Is this the same "Of Dwarves and Men" that appears in, er, PoMe? I
hadn't remembered this change, so any extra reminders would be
welcome. :)
Steuard Jensen

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 3:03:12 PM10/20/05
to
In message <news:9OP5f.19$45....@news.uchicago.edu>
sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu (Steuard Jensen) enriched us with:
>
> Quoth Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> in article
> <apfdl19ksmhl8tj46...@4ax.com>:
>>
>> After this are we going to do Chapter of the Week with HoME? :-)
>
> No, no! I continue to be amazed at the number of people who
> overlook /Unfinished Tales/, one of the very best Tolkien books in
> existence.

Hear, hear!

Add to that that UT lends itself much better to the CotW format (and
if we do that, then we might also find a way to do HoMe afterwards
;-)

We no more than about nine months before the question becomes
interesting, but I am all for continuing with UT!

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

Smile
a while
ere day
is done
and all
your gall
will soon
be gone.
- Piet Hein, /Advice at Nightfall/

Chris Kern

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 4:25:34 PM10/20/05
to
On Thu, 20 Oct 2005 16:45:33 GMT, sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu

(Steuard Jensen) posted the following:

>Quoth Chris Kern <chris...@gmail.com> in article
><99fdl1hh6sh2ki8kk...@4ax.com>:

>> It did, however, contain a chapter called "Concerning the Dwarves"


>> (or maybe "Of Dwarves and Men") which does not appear in CT's
>> edition.
>
>Is this the same "Of Dwarves and Men" that appears in, er, PoMe?

In all honesty I'm not sure where the information in "Concerning the
Dwarves" went. I know that some of it went into "Of Aule and Yavanna"
but there was some other information about the Dwarves, and I have no
idea where that information ended up. It's possible that it all got
rejected (aside from the Of Aule... stuff), but I'm having a hard time
understanding CT's description of the chapter in War of the Jewels.

-Chris

Count Menelvagor

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 5:24:16 PM10/20/05
to

R. Dan Henry wrote:

> And yet we still don't have Shopping Lists Written While Thinking About
> Hobbits, HOME XXXVI!

shame! why not? CT had better get busy NOW.

> I generally read forewords, prefaces, introductions, and even
> dedications. Either I like to read or I suffer from an
> obsessive-compulsive disorder or perhaps I just think the author
> wouldn't have bothered unless he had a reason.

the only of thsoe sorts of things i tend to skip are acknowledgements.

Michelle J. Haines

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 5:32:17 PM10/20/05
to
Steuard Jensen wrote:
>
> Admittedly, I think that the majority of people on the newsgroups are
> familiar with it, but I've seen lots of cases where people in other
> discussion forums and even published guides to Tolkien's writings omit
> it, or treat it as an afterthought. UT is better than Silm. in some
> ways, and parts of it are probably an easier introduction to Tolkien's
> posthumous works than Silm. is.

I always read the two together, moving back and forth between them
depending on where parts of the UT fit into the Silm. I especially make
a point of doing this when reading Turin's story.

Michelle
Flutist

Message has been deleted

Count Menelvagor

unread,
Oct 20, 2005, 11:40:50 PM10/20/05
to

Andrew F. Donnell wrote:
> Count Menelvagor wrote:

> > R. Dan Henry wrote:
> >
> >>I generally read forewords, prefaces, introductions, and even
> >>dedications. Either I like to read or I suffer from an
> >>obsessive-compulsive disorder or perhaps I just think the author
> >>wouldn't have bothered unless he had a reason.
> >
> >
> > the only of thsoe sorts of things i tend to skip are acknowledgements.
>
> But the acknowledgements are where you find all the juicy gossip....

"thanks to 'eowyn' and 'arwen' for massaging me while i write my
masterpieces. whoops, better not let edith read this."

AC

unread,
Oct 21, 2005, 7:24:07 PM10/21/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 10:37:05 +0100,
gp.skinner <gp.sk...@nospam.talk21.com> wrote:
>
> I wonder how many people think that the Silmarillion is now in a form that
> JRRT would have been happy with, I'd say he'd still be revising it now
> (aged 113 he'd prob. need good glasses) if he had the chance. Or would he
> go back and rewrite the whole lot so that the writing style is the same
> throughout?

I think we can be fairly certain that he would have been proud of what his
son tried to do, but we can also tell from the final stage of the
mythological development that Tolkien was looking at substantial changes not
only to the cosmology but to some of the underyling stories, with great
enlargements in some of them.

--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

AC

unread,
Oct 21, 2005, 7:25:10 PM10/21/05
to
On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 10:13:59 -0300,
Derek Broughton <ne...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>
> I have no doubt that it could never have been published in JRRT's lifetime,
> no matter how long he'd lived. He'd had longer to do the job than he had
> for LOTR, and if he couldn't be happy with it in that time, I doubt he
> could ever have been happy. Christopher Tolkien is no longer happy with
> the job he did - but he had to start somewhere, we wanted the Silmarillion,
> and I think he & Guy Kay did a pretty good job, even if they'd have done it
> differently later.

I'd suspect that if Unwin had agree to publish the Silm along side LotR that
we would have seen it completed in his lifetime.

<snip>

--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

Stan Brown

unread,
Oct 21, 2005, 9:16:14 PM10/21/05
to
21 Oct 2005 23:25:10 GMT from AC <mightym...@hotmail.com>:

> I'd suspect that if Unwin had agree to publish the Silm along side LotR that
> we would have seen it completed in his lifetime.

I wonder. One of the major impressions I have from /Letters/ is that
Tolkien had a HUGE problem with deadlines. Of course we all value the
fruits of his painstaking attention to detail, but it must have been
exasperating for his publisher.

We'll never know, but my own idea is that if he had been given the
go-ahead on Silm+LotR he'd have spent endless time refining Silm and
would never have finished LotR.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

Conrad Dunkerson

unread,
Oct 22, 2005, 7:01:28 AM10/22/05
to
Stan Brown wrote:
> 21 Oct 2005 23:25:10 GMT from AC <mightym...@hotmail.com>:

> We'll never know, but my own idea is that if he had been given the

> go-ahead on Silm+LotR he'd have spent endless time refining Silm and
> would never have finished LotR.

Tolkien submitted the ~1937 version of Silm for publication twice -
before starting work on LotR and after finishing it. If it had been
accepted the first time I'd think we'd have a Silmarillion based on the
older drafts (actually, largely consistent with what CT produced) and no
LotR. If Silm had been accepted along with LotR in the 1950s... that's
harder to say. He had a terrible time with the publication process,
appendixes, and index for LotR. If he had concentrated on publishing
Silm as it then stood instead he might have been able to complete it and
LotR could still have been released without the appendixes. If he had
continued with his plan to revise Silm entirely I doubt either would
ever have been published... and even though Silm and LotR would then
both be in pretty decent shape for posthumous publication there probably
would not have been a demand for them.

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 5:53:33 PM10/26/05
to
R. Dan Henry <danh...@inreach.com> wrote:
> On Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:11:16 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
> <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:
>
>> And so, after the children's story of /The Hobbit/ and the "darker"
>> tale of /The Lord of the Rings/, we come to /The Silmarillion/, the
>> last of the three major works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
>
> You do _Mr. Bliss_ a grave injustice, sir. Pistols at dawn! :-)

LOL!

I've really enjoyed reading people's stories in this thread of when they
read /The Silmarillion/ and what the reaction was when it first
appeared. I can only add that I remember reading /The Silmarillion/ when
I was about 14 or 15, but only really understanding it on about the
third reading. It suddenly all seemed to fall into place, and I realised
I _really_ liked this book!

And, /pace/ Mr Bliss, I did say that /The Silmarillion/ was the last of
the major works by J.R.R. Tolkien that we had yet to discuss, but there
are of course many other 'minor' works.

Can people remember when they first read these minor works (if any), and
which of them they liked best? My favorites are /Leaf by Niggle/ and the
poem /The Homecoming/.

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

Huan the hound

unread,
Oct 26, 2005, 7:27:46 PM10/26/05
to
On 2005-10-26, Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in
<xVS7f.138417$G8.4...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>:

[snip]


> Can people remember when they first read these minor works (if any), and
> which of them they liked best? My favorites are /Leaf by Niggle/ and the
> poem /The Homecoming/.

Can't remember, but _Farmer Giles_ is my favorite. I really like it and
the style is the main reason. I'm trying to re-read _Roverandom_ but just
can't settle down with it. _Smith_ doesn't appeal to me but I've never
re-read it so maybe I ought to give it another shot. I haven't read the
others.

--
Huan, the hound of Valinor

R. Dan Henry

unread,
Oct 27, 2005, 3:10:46 AM10/27/05
to

I'm rather fond of the Father Christmas Letters. But maybe that's
because of all the pictures.

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