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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: the sinking of Beleriand: Edit Log

Grey Havens

Apr 30 2013, 2:01pm

Views: 1455
the sinking of Beleriand

Christopher Tolkien generally noted: 'What little was ever told of the Drowning of Beleriand is very difficult to interpret; the idea shifted and changed, but my father never at any stage clearly expounded it.'

That's really the best answer, unfortunately. I took a look at the external sources and came up with the same...

... answer? Smile

The problem with the fostering of Elrond and Elros and the Drowning of Beleriand is that Tolkien never really updated the end of Quenta Silmarillion -- he made some cursory corrections, yes, but Christopher Tolkien warns that these should not mean that JRRT himself was accepting the end chapters as otherwise updated, and Shirly there were not in my opinion.

What you really have is some ideas from the mid to late 1930s, which possibly still incorporate the Isle of Britain as being a land mass that survives the War of Wrath! And we also have the confusing possibility that the true 'full' destruction of Beleriand did not take place until Numenor fell.

We do know that the Isle of Britain -- as a surviving Isle -- did not likely survive as a concept into the 1950s, but below is the last version of QS [for this chapter] that Tolkien ever wrote. CJRT said he was surprised that for Quenta Silmarillion (QS) his father followed the earlier Qenta Noldorinwa (Q) so closely in features where the 'intrusion' of Númenor had already introduced new conceptions. I note an interesting passage in QS describing that after the Great Battle 'Men... fled far away, and it was long ere they came back over Eredlindon to the places where Beleriand had been'

What then was the meaning of this in the earlier Qenta Noldorinwa? Christopher says that he does not certainly know what this refers to, but speculates that it's conceivable that it refers to 'the bloody invasions of England in later days described in Ælfwine II; for there is very little in that text that cannot be readily accommodated to the present passage in S and Q, with the picture of the fading Elves of Lúthien leaving our Western shores. But a serious difficulty with this idea lies in the coming of Men 'over the mountains' to where Beleriand once had been.' Christopher Tolkien, The Quenta, HME IV

Well that's interesting! And in The Fall of Númenor II, Elendil the Númenorean, a king of Beleriand '... took counsel with the Elves that remained in Middle-earth (and these abode then mostly in Beleriand); and he made a league with Gil-galad the Elf-king. And their armies were joined, and passed the mountains and came into inner lands far from the Sea.'

Also in the extant QS, Tolkien wrote '... of the great building of ships upon the shores of the Western Sea, and especially upon the great isles which, in the disruption of the northern world, were fashioned of ancient Beleriand.' Turning again to Qenta Noldorinwa CJRT writes: 'The relation between these passages* strongly suggests that the 'Western Isles' were the British Isles, and that England still had a place in the actual mythological geography, as is explicitly so in S.' Of course Tolkien could use the same or similar passage from an older version and 'give' it new meaning (even if not clearly discerned), but I think the external history of the text here is very interesting.

It is also said in this version that not all the Elves were willing to forsake the 'Hither Lands' and some lingered in the West and North, and 'especially in the western isles and in the land of Leithien.'

Leithien is England... or was anyway! And again, this was the last version Tolkien ever wrote for Quenta Silmarillion. What we have in the 1977 Silmarillion has been edited of course, but it's from material that was rather problematic with respect to dating and being 'finished' in any notable sense.

So somewhat large questions remain. Add in the Isle of 'Himling' [Himring] and Tol Fuin, another [rather large] Isle that remained... again at least at one point in the external conception, according to an old map [for myself I'm not certainly sure these concepts necessarily survived themselves]... plus Tol Morwen, and the matter becomes even more confusing.

That's why, in a sense, CJRT's statement above is actually a good answer Smile

(This post was edited by Elthir on Apr 30 2013, 2:04pm)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Elthir (Grey Havens) on Apr 30 2013, 2:02pm
Post edited by Elthir (Grey Havens) on Apr 30 2013, 2:03pm
Post edited by Elthir (Grey Havens) on Apr 30 2013, 2:04pm

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