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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
What would you consider to be Tolkien's Magnum Opus?

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Sep 3 2017, 6:03pm

Post #1 of 9 (2563 views)
What would you consider to be Tolkien's Magnum Opus? Can't Post

I came across this thought-provoking blogpost today, at A Tolkienist's Perspective, a debate about what literary work should be considered Tolkien's Magnum Opus:


I disagree with the writer, I feel that LotR should get this honor, considering Tolkien's persistence in re-writing and editing to craft the finished story.

However, I do agree that Christopher Tolkien's impressive HoME is his Magnum Opus!


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


Sep 3 2017, 7:24pm

Post #2 of 9 (2526 views)
Not to be too contentious, but The Lord of the Rings is the undisputed answer. [In reply to] Can't Post

I appreciate the writer's urge to consider other candidates, in a spirit of discussion, interest, and a fear of being 'hasty.' But none of his arguments (Sigurd and Gudrun. Really.) hold up against the standard he set out to meet: a single work with which an author can most reasonably be said to have made his mark on the world of letters.

Yes, the Silmarillion was close to Tolkien's heart, and The Lord of the Rings would not have the power it has had Tolkien not spent decades writing the tales in the Sil. The same might be said for The Hobbit: the loosening of style and the mixing of the low and commonplace, in the form of hobbits, into the rather elevated mythology of the Elder Days, which make LotR sing for today's readers, would not have happened had he not written the first book during a break from composing the adventures of Turin, Beren, and Luthien.

But that's the case with most masterpieces: we see their formation in all the previous works of the artist as he rises to the peak of his powers. But that should not allow us to ignore the peak in favor of the foothills. The Lord of the Rings remains Tolkien's single greatest literary creation (as I suspect even the Tolkienist secretly would admit).

Thanks for the post!

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Sep 3 2017, 8:07pm

Post #3 of 9 (2515 views)
The Silmarllion [In reply to] Can't Post

Though not completed in Tolkien's lifetime, I have to agree that The Silmarillion was his true magnum opus.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor


Sep 5 2017, 1:48am

Post #4 of 9 (2486 views)
I would agree with Squire... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Lord of the Rings is, without dispute, Tolkien's magnum opus, and not The Silmarillion.

I dearly love The Silmarillion. I love the history of it. I love the almost biblical prose and the poetry of many of its passages. However, the process by which Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion and the thousands of years it encompasses, renders it flat from a character perspective. Without the exotic names affixed to the characters, we cannot really differentiate one Elf from another, save for Feanor, Fingolfin, Thingol and perhaps Turgon and Finrod in certain stories. The vast panoply of time does not allow for circumspection and character development, let alone dialogue and speech patterns which allow us to tell one character from the next.

The Lord of the Rings, however, gives us the greatest character definition of any of his books (and let's not forget in The Hobbit the difference between Ori, Dori, Nori, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur is the addition or detraction of a consonant, vowel, or in one case a few more pounds). Sam and Sam's relationship with Frodo, the interrelationship of Merry and Pippin, Gandalf's transition from Gray to White, even the character Smeagol/Gollum are endearing in one way or another. One can identify with any number of characters in LotR, whereas that is really not possible in the Sil, given many of the characters' distance and lack of internal dialogue.

We may be saddened by the Elves long defeat in The Sil, and wonder at individual acts of bravery, cowardice or treachery, but we can't really get into the heads of any character. We can do that with characters from LotR, particularly the Hobbits. Therefore, the book is more complex, and in the end more eucatasrophically more satisfying.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Sep 5 2017, 1:49am)


Sep 5 2017, 7:29pm

Post #5 of 9 (2406 views)
Agree, of his completed works it is not even close - LOTR. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Silmarillion is like the foundation of a great building - it supports everything, is critical, necessary and is largely unseen or understood. The Hobbit is like the landscaping - it creates an inviting passage to the building. The LOTR is the building - a soaring masterpiece.

(This post was edited by Eruonen on Sep 5 2017, 7:32pm)


Sep 5 2017, 8:30pm

Post #6 of 9 (2387 views)
LOTR--no competition. // [In reply to] Can't Post



Sep 6 2017, 11:37am

Post #7 of 9 (2376 views)
Which question are we answering? [In reply to] Can't Post

If its about the work that has had the biggest impact on the world, then surely it's a no-contest and the winner is LOTR, for the reasons squire has already given.

If it really boils down to 'which work do you like the most' then my answer is LOTR, but any other sincere answer is just as valid.

The blogger thinks about which work is perhaps the most admirable - most difficult to have done, or most original or creative. I think that comes to much the same as 'which one do you like the best' because it's easier to admire what you like.

Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Sep 6 2017, 1:09pm

Post #8 of 9 (2369 views)
magnum opus [In reply to] Can't Post

As defined by the Encarta Dictionary:

mag•num o•pus n. a great work of art or literature, especially the finest work produced by one individual. [From Latin, "great work"]

A good case can certainly be made for The Lord of the Rings as Tolkien's magnum opus. Likewise, one can argue for The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún or some other of his completed works. However, in terms of Tolkien's life's work, I think the only answer can be The Silmarillion. And yet that is still only an opinion.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 6 2017, 1:11pm)

Aragorn the Elfstone
Tol Eressea

Sep 21 2017, 1:31am

Post #9 of 9 (2185 views)
When I was younger... [In reply to] Can't Post

...I might have said The Silmarillion. Upon first reading it in 2001, I was blown away by the size and scale of Tolkien's vast history.

But given that The Sil is not entirely J.R.R.'s creation, can it really be considered his magnum opus? And even if it was, does it's vast history and mythic grandeur surpass LotR's magnificent characterization and amazing narrative?

No, I think not. But ask me in another couple years, and I might tell you different.

For now, however, I feel it's absolutely The Lord of the Rings.

"The danger with any movie that does as well as this one does is that the amount of money it's making and the number of awards that it's got becomes almost more important than the movie itself in people's minds. I look at that as, in a sense, being very much like the Ring, and its effect on people. You know, you can kind of forget what we were doing, if you get too wrapped up in that."
- Viggo Mortensen

(This post was edited by Aragorn the Elfstone on Sep 21 2017, 1:32am)


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