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Christopher Tolkien Cannon?
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Tolkien R.R.J
The Shire

Feb 6, 1:42am

Post #1 of 68 (5001 views)
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Christopher Tolkien Cannon? Can't Post

Should all his works considered the same level as J.R.R's published works? what is the case for an against. Or should only some of them, and if so witch and why.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning”
- J.R.R Tolkien

“If you really want to know what middle earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as is, particularity the natural earth”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“If literature teaches us anything at all, it is this that we have in us an eternal element.”
-J.R.R Tolkien


Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 6, 2:26am

Post #2 of 68 (4883 views)
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I tend to think that the whole notion of canon is overrated [In reply to] Can't Post

Even if we restrict ourselves to the narrowest definition of canon -- those works published during Tolkien's own lifetime -- we are not left with a wholly consistent picture. There remain many elements of The Hobbit deriving from its semi-separate origins that seem out of place within the wider Middle-earth mythos. Of course, there are plenty of anachronisms surrounding Hobbits in LOTR as well and Tolkien took steps to explain some of them (such as Númenóreans introducing tobacco to Middle-earth, despite it being a New World crop in the Primary World), but it's hard to find an explanation for Bilbo having matches (TH, Riddles in the Dark). Some people argue for disregarding The Hobbit and just relying on the summary in Appendix A to fill in that portion of the timeline, but I think this is an overly reductive view.

Of course, limiting ourself only to works published in Tolkien's lifetime excludes the vast majority of available information about the First Age and is therefore an unsatisfactory solution to many readers (myself included). Perhaps the easiest solution to the question of First Age canon is to simply follow the 1977 Silmarillion, though I assume from you posing this question that this is not an approach you subscribe to. I personally find it to be too restrictive, and in any event Christopher has himself noted in HoMe that there are things he would've done differently about the work had he made it later. That said, I think he very much deserves our gratitude for both The Silmarillion and his subsequent scholarly books, and the latter would probably not have been financially viable to publish if not for the success of the former.

But of course, there is no other standard version to replace the 1977 Silm. I think it's questionable that Tolkien would have completed The Silmarillion even if he lived another 10 years. We can attempt to divine his final intentions at the time of his death, but there's no telling what he might have changed his mind about had he actually followed through on the rewriting necessary to implement many of his later ideas. Therefore any attempt at constructing an internally consistent and comprehensive canon of the First Age must be a fan project, which undermines the entire concept of canon. But I also think it rather misses the point of the legendarium. Real mythologies are not entirely consistent either and Tolkien's invented mythology reflects this, albeit not entirely intentionally since he did want to finish TS. The texts that he left behind do not provide a firm basis for a canon, but I prefer to explore his full body of work: the common threads, the variations on single tales, and the wildly divergent branches. I think this gives a much better impression of the full scope of Tolkien's achievement and I personally find it to be much more rewarding than attempting to select only those works that seem to best fit together from a continuity perspective.


squire
Half-elven


Feb 6, 3:10am

Post #3 of 68 (4882 views)
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Beautifully put [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been trying to express the same perspective on the whole concept of a Tolkien cannon for years now. Witch just hasn't worked - there's a big world of fans out there, and many of them are not nearly as particular about distinguishing Tolkien's works from comic-book, fan-fiction, and fantasy-film conventions as you and I and many others are. So stating our case, and hoping for the best, will have to do.



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Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 6, 4:39am

Post #4 of 68 (4860 views)
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I can sympathize... [In reply to] Can't Post

...with people who care about canon at least in the case of shared universes where a work's canonical status often impacts whether characters or settings introduced in it will continue to be developed in future works, but that's obviously not a factor in Tolkien's legendarium. Being someone who likes to have things neatly organized and categorized I can understand the impulse to classify things as canonical or not, but I've tried to limit that habit (and not just in the context of fictional canons) as I've grown older since I think you lose a lot of nuance that way.

I agree that the approach is especially poorly suited for understanding Middle-earth.


(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 6, 4:43am)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 6, 5:44am

Post #5 of 68 (4845 views)
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The Limits of Canon [In reply to] Can't Post

As a long-time tabletop gamer, I realize that too much obsession with canon can be extremely limiting. I love Cubicle 7's The One Ring Roleplaying Game and its Adventures in Middle-earth for D&D 5e, but I would probably not like either as much if the game designers couldn't expand upon Tolkien's legendarium.

I'm a bit off-topic, though. I do consider The Silmarillion as part of the primary canon, though I would not object if Christopher Tolkien wanted to give it an overhaul in the form of a major revision. I do separate later works such as Unfinished Tales and the HOME volumes as part of a secondary canon.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Feb 6, 5:47am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 6, 11:10am

Post #6 of 68 (4818 views)
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Christopher Tolkien's approach - thinking about 'what does it mean?' [In reply to] Can't Post

With the exception a couple of occasions (Silmarillion and Children of Hurin) Christopher has very much taken the role of being a scholar and editor presenting another person's work. For example, Unfinished Tales presents one or more drafts of a JRR Tolkien story, with some notes by C Tolkien. Sometimes those notes explore items that one or both Tolkiens thought unsatisfactory about the draft. History of Middle Earth is a multi-volume scholarly tour-de-force in which Christopher sets out (as far as is possible) JRRs various drafts and their evolution. In Beren and Luthien, Christopher again presents JRRs many attempts at the tale, rather than presenting or compiling or writing a 'best version' as if he were finishing his father's work.

That presents a problem for someone wanting a simple yes/no answer about canonicity - or even any kind of definitive answer. Take Beren and Luthien, for example. Christopher's book presents several version of the story, which are not consistent with each other. Which of these versions is 'canonical' then: a particular one according to some rule, Or are all versions canon (including where Beren is an elf, or 'gnome'), or none? Or perhaps 'canon' is just the material that a particular reader thinks of as genuine-sounding? I suspect that this is what a lot of argument about 'canon' really is sometimes - people wanting to draw a line around the stuff they like, and discount the rest. (I then imagine them liking to don a peaked cap and stride up and down their border with a whistle telling other people off for not respecting it- but I suspect that's uncharitable.)

Then again, maybe the question just doesn't have a yes/no answer (or even any reachable consensus answer) given the way Christopher has decided the story ought to be presented.

Silmarillion provides a contrasting example. Christopher complied and completed, and saw one version of that work through to publication. What is presented is one continuous epic. And that would normally have been that - that's the Sil, take it or leave it Tolkien fans and scholars! But Christopher's other publishing (notably History of Middle Earth) has allowed Tolkien scholars to dismantle The Sil and work out which JRR drafts went where and on what occasions new material was written. That enables people to have opinions about the decisions made (e.g. to argue that Christopher should have chosen a different draft version, or did/didn't write very convincing original material).


All that adds to the problems of neatly defining a 'canon' for Tolkien anyway, which are being discussed on the other subthread.

~~~~~~
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


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 6, 3:52pm

Post #7 of 68 (4796 views)
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What, anyway, is the usefulness of 'canon' when discussing Tolkien's books? (genuine question) [In reply to] Can't Post

This is meant as a genuine rather than rhetorical question (that is I don't know the answer and would be interested in other people's thoughts), I'm meaning to continue the thread by asking it, rather than intending to respond to Otaku-sempai only.

I'm thinking about what use the idea of canon might be when reading and thinking about the books (which is the specialist task of the Reading Room forum). I don't see it's usefulness for that.

I can see the need for some sort of official line on things in, say a TV series where many writers work in parallel. I understand that it's common to maintain a 'series bible' or 'universe bible' to keep a handy record of the things writers, artists or other creative folks need to know, in order not to avoid problems about continuity, or dropping each other into plot holes. Such a guide, as I understand it is proscriptive - it tells people they can't do things that will cause problems (e.g. invent extra settings for blasters or magic wands; or reveal the identity of a certain character's father ). I don't think Tolkien kept such as set of proscriptive or definitive notes - he seems to have had to look back in his files to see what he had previously described[/] (and then felt happy to change it if he'd had a more satisfactory idea). Or, he consulted his imagination to find out what seemed likely to be true. And, of course, he was the sole author, in contrast to the way in which other popular fictional universes were and are created.

I can see that someone making new work based on Middle-earth might greatly desire a handy guide to answer the various questions that come up. For example, I can imagine someone making a game finding they need to know: can a balrog fly? How fast and how far? How much can it carry? (and so on). In the absence of a universe bible by Prof Tolkien, this would have to be by analysis and deduction, which I expect would be of limited use. (I think all that can be deduced from the text about balrog flight is that a balrog falls rather than flies whilst entangled with an irate wizard. Perhaps it can fly a bit to slow their combined rate of fall. Perhaps balrogs cannot fly at all: there is no information, or inconsistent information in the available texts.) So my imagined game-maker (or artist, or fan-fiction writer) will need to come up with their own ideas, and try to keep them feeling plausible for Middle-earth. Therein lies a problem, I expect - reading is a creative act in which the reader has to imagine the details that the author doesn't specifically provide, and so different readers are likely to have imagined things differently (and can be each quite certain they are right).

What, if anything, have I missed that makes 'canon' a useful idea when discussing Tolkien's books?

~~~~~~
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


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Feb 6, 4:57pm

Post #8 of 68 (4787 views)
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What purpose does canon serve? Analysis, criticism and discussion. [In reply to] Can't Post

Leaving aside the usefulness of 'canon' (and licensing terms) for the purpose of what can be adapted to other media, I think that we want to determine what can firmly be placed in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium so that we can better discuss such matters as: Tolkien's influences; how he developed Middle-earth; the process of draft to (sometimes) finished work; Tolkien's approaches to his other works; and, how his vision of Middle-earth changed over time. I find it fascinating how Tolkien was always exploring new ideas that could potentially revise his drafts and even his previously published works (such as a revised backstory for Galadriel and Celeborn), though those later thoughts might not represent his final intent on such matters.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


sador
Half-elven


Feb 6, 5:14pm

Post #9 of 68 (4786 views)
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If you compare to real mythologies [In reply to] Can't Post

it is going to be a few centuries before any 'canon' is agreed upon. And yes, it would be self-contradictory and full of anachronisms even then.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 6, 6:54pm

Post #10 of 68 (4760 views)
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canon 'collection of works' and canon 'collection of facts' [In reply to] Can't Post

You are reminding me that 'canon' can be used to mean which works are (or are not) included. I think that's what you are talking about in your last post. On that subject, I agree with you - it's interesting to think about how Tolkien 'developed Middle-earth; the process of draft to (sometimes) finished work; Tolkien's approaches to his other works; and, how his vision of Middle-earth changed over time.' I suppose out Reading Room canon (in that sense: which works are we expecting to consider?) is fairly clear - in conversations I've seen we've been largely willing to consider information from Christopher's various postumous publications of JRR's work, and we consider 'Letters'. By contrast, on this board, we're wary of incorporating ideas from the Peter Jackson movies, and tend to use the movies only for comparison (e.g. when discussing the difficulties of telling a certain part of the story).

So in that sense of canon, I think the answer to the OP has to be - yes, we happily discuss Christopher Tolkien's work (but we remember that he is presenting ideas that were still in draft when written). WE're also very interested in his critiques of the drafts he's studied.

As regards 'canon' in the sense of an official or authoritative body of facts about a fictional universe... I was asking whether that's a useful idea when discussing the books, or whether it only arises when comparing new works (fan fiction, TV series, games, movies, art...) with what Tolkien did.

~~~~~~
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


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 6, 7:47pm

Post #11 of 68 (4765 views)
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CT always seemed to be more obsessed with canon that JRR [In reply to] Can't Post

"Christopher was always much concerned with the consistency of the story and on one occasion interrupted: 'Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a golden tassel on his hood, but you've just said that Bilbo's front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin's hood was silver,' at which point Ronald exclaimed 'Damn the boy!' and strode across the room to make a note."
-The Tolkien Family Album

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair.
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today.
I wish he would just fly away.





Elthir
Grey Havens

Feb 6, 7:51pm

Post #12 of 68 (4756 views)
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Hi Eldo [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Even if we restrict ourselves to the narrowest definition of canon -- those works published during Tolkien's own lifetime -- we are not left with a wholly consistent picture.


I agree my friend. I'm convinced that Tolkien desired to include a certain measure of inconsistency (based on perspective and authorship) to give the legendarium a more realistic sense of being a compiled collection of various texts.

Perry-the-Winkle's troll and the Olog-hai are both canon, both from imagined internal texts, both author published. And for me, certain arguable anachronisms can be the result of Tolkien as translator/modern storyteller.


Quote
Of course, limiting ourself only to works published in Tolkien's lifetime excludes the vast majority of available information about the First Age and is therefore an unsatisfactory solution to many readers (myself included).


Characterizing only Tolkien's published work as canon, as I do (plus the map by Pauline Baynes), doesn't limit me though; or at least I don't feel limited, not from imagining the Elder Days, nor when I chat about them.

What is does is provide me with a valuable gift in order to better engage with Tolkien's world, and believe in "green suns" so to speak. Why did Guy Kay talk Christopher Tolkien into a one volume Silmarillion version? In my opinion because he knew that reading the constructed Silmarillion would not be the same experience as a scholarly approach (though that too has its own kind of rewards).

They agreed that readers want to read!

Same would go for the constructed Children of Hurin, I think.

I recall (at another site) someone essentially giving up trying to understand the history of Galadriel and Celeborn for instance. Too complicated he/she said. I find that a bit of a shame really, but it's the seemingly inevitable result of all the posthumously published material...

... if we let it confuse us with respect to what Tolkien himself published/revealed to his readership. For myself, I find it interesting that late in life, for instance, Tolkien was thinking of making Celeborn a Teler of Aman.

Still, Celeborn is not a Teler when I go back to Middle-earth, and I have (my definition of) canon to thank for this.


Quote
Therefore any attempt at constructing an internally consistent and comprehensive canon of the First Age must be a fan project, which undermines the entire concept of canon.


I see your point, but as long as we acknowledge that by doing this we are not attempting to define canon outside of Tolkien-published work... well, in a sense we are happily constructing our own Silmarillions, with no two versions likely being exactly the same.

Yet Tolkien's published corpus remains as a guide -- which I would argue that even he "must" consider canon, and I think he illustrates this in various ways, even when revising already published accounts, like Bilbo's account of his finding the One, for instance.


And with respect to any edition of The Hobbit not being canon (which I realize you are not arguing for, but merely raised the matter here), I think this position is not easily defended given what I characterize as Tolkien's own (published) acceptance of even the first edition as an internal text.


I enjoy both The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin constructions. I don't consider them canon and don't think they were meant to be considered as such.

And I think they work very well as satisfying book experiences, even if, especially after I've finished The Silmarillion (and no longer swept up in it), for example, in my Middle-earth, one of Feanor's sons dies in the flames of Losgar.

Does this happen in your Middle-earth?

There's nothing in the canon either way Wink


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 6, 8:03pm)


Attalus
Lorien


Feb 6, 9:32pm

Post #13 of 68 (4726 views)
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I think that Canao was JRRT's mind [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I enjoy both The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin constructions. I don't consider them canon and don't think they were meant to be considered as such.


That pretty much sums up what I personally consider "canon," but I don't worry about it too much. I am too much of a history buff and Bible reader to doubt that the whole of anything is like a faceted jewel, different from whatever angle you look at it. JRRT is described, particularly by Carpenter, as a 'niggler" and chronic reviser as well as a deadline ignorer. Do Balrogs have wings? What color was Bilbo's front door? Did Elves have pointed ears?My answer to these chronic arguing points, is, "Maybe". What were Balrogs made of, anyway? As pointed out above, Durin's Bane seemed unable to fly attached to an "irate wizard," But many a real winged creature would be unable to fly if attached to anything approaching its own weight. I have seen a red-tailed hawk strike down a rabbit and then be unable to fly off with it. Plus, we are told that DB "had become a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake." so some bodily transformation was definitely an option to at least some Balrogs. Maybe Bilbo had a thing about repainting his front door, as the Irish are said to do. Maybe Torin had two hoods. Maybe some Elves' ears were pointed and some were not. I know a woman who has ears that seem quite pointed which ahas earned her grief enough in her life. So, I don't have a very high "willing suspension of disbelief" threshold. But one thing I insist upon. Aragorn's horse was named Roheryn. and he rode on Hasufel for a while, but never one named Brego, damn it! Pirate

We are the fighting Uruk-Hai! We slew the great warrior! Well, yeah, first he killed a bunch of us and another whole lot of Mauhúr's lads, and we had to shoot enough arrows into him to drop a Mûmak. But we got him!


Tolkien R.R.J
The Shire

Feb 6, 10:14pm

Post #14 of 68 (4716 views)
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I am unsure of canon [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Even if we restrict ourselves to the narrowest definition of canon -- those works published during Tolkien's own lifetime -- we are not left with a wholly consistent picture. There remain many elements of The Hobbit deriving from its semi-separate origins that seem out of place within the wider Middle-earth mythos. Of course, there are plenty of anachronisms surrounding Hobbits in LOTR as well and Tolkien took steps to explain some of them (such as Númenóreans introducing tobacco to Middle-earth, despite it being a New World crop in the Primary World), but it's hard to find an explanation for Bilbo having matches (TH, Riddles in the Dark). Some people argue for disregarding The Hobbit and just relying on the summary in Appendix A to fill in that portion of the timeline, but I think this is an overly reductive view.

Of course, limiting ourself only to works published in Tolkien's lifetime excludes the vast majority of available information about the First Age and is therefore an unsatisfactory solution to many readers (myself included). Perhaps the easiest solution to the question of First Age canon is to simply follow the 1977 Silmarillion, though I assume from you posing this question that this is not an approach you subscribe to. I personally find it to be too restrictive, and in any event Christopher has himself noted in HoMe that there are things he would've done differently about the work had he made it later. That said, I think he very much deserves our gratitude for both The Silmarillion and his subsequent scholarly books, and the latter would probably not have been financially viable to publish if not for the success of the former.

But of course, there is no other standard version to replace the 1977 Silm. I think it's questionable that Tolkien would have completed The Silmarillion even if he lived another 10 years. We can attempt to divine his final intentions at the time of his death, but there's no telling what he might have changed his mind about had he actually followed through on the rewriting necessary to implement many of his later ideas. Therefore any attempt at constructing an internally consistent and comprehensive canon of the First Age must be a fan project, which undermines the entire concept of canon. But I also think it rather misses the point of the legendarium. Real mythologies are not entirely consistent either and Tolkien's invented mythology reflects this, albeit not entirely intentionally since he did want to finish TS. The texts that he left behind do not provide a firm basis for a canon, but I prefer to explore his full body of work: the common threads, the variations on single tales, and the wildly divergent branches. I think this gives a much better impression of the full scope of Tolkien's achievement and I personally find it to be much more rewarding than attempting to select only those works that seem to best fit together from a continuity perspective.



I have just spent some time on your website great stuff thank you. I dont hold any view 100% and was looking to be convinced by more knowledgeable persons such as yourself. I have read on the man Tolkien much more than his works. But I do think he wanted to have a constant [though not seen by all perspectives and memories] history of middle earth. His letters are full of solving perceived contradictions in his writings. A silmarillion must be made to complete the history, and Christopher is the best option as his son and a fellow inkling. But of course it is not J.R.R tolkiens silmarillion. How close? I am unsure of course. I would guess pretty damn close.

For the published material after the silmarillion were all these works intended to even be published by his father? or did he more just put out more of his fathers writings for the fans?

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning”
- J.R.R Tolkien

“If you really want to know what middle earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as is, particularity the natural earth”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“If literature teaches us anything at all, it is this that we have in us an eternal element.”
-J.R.R Tolkien


Tolkien R.R.J
The Shire

Feb 6, 10:20pm

Post #15 of 68 (4715 views)
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What is Canon? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
With the exception a couple of occasions (Silmarillion and Children of Hurin) Christopher has very much taken the role of being a scholar and editor presenting another person's work. For example, Unfinished Tales presents one or more drafts of a JRR Tolkien story, with some notes by C Tolkien. Sometimes those notes explore items that one or both Tolkiens thought unsatisfactory about the draft. History of Middle Earth is a multi-volume scholarly tour-de-force in which Christopher sets out (as far as is possible) JRRs various drafts and their evolution. In Beren and Luthien, Christopher again presents JRRs many attempts at the tale, rather than presenting or compiling or writing a 'best version' as if he were finishing his father's work.

That presents a problem for someone wanting a simple yes/no answer about canonicity - or even any kind of definitive answer. Take Beren and Luthien, for example. Christopher's book presents several version of the story, which are not consistent with each other. Which of these versions is 'canonical' then: a particular one according to some rule, Or are all versions canon (including where Beren is an elf, or 'gnome'), or none? Or perhaps 'canon' is just the material that a particular reader thinks of as genuine-sounding? I suspect that this is what a lot of argument about 'canon' really is sometimes - people wanting to draw a line around the stuff they like, and discount the rest. (I then imagine them liking to don a peaked cap and stride up and down their border with a whistle telling other people off for not respecting it- but I suspect that's uncharitable.)

Then again, maybe the question just doesn't have a yes/no answer (or even any reachable consensus answer) given the way Christopher has decided the story ought to be presented.

Silmarillion provides a contrasting example. Christopher complied and completed, and saw one version of that work through to publication. What is presented is one continuous epic. And that would normally have been that - that's the Sil, take it or leave it Tolkien fans and scholars! But Christopher's other publishing (notably History of Middle Earth) has allowed Tolkien scholars to dismantle The Sil and work out which JRR drafts went where and on what occasions new material was written. That enables people to have opinions about the decisions made (e.g. to argue that Christopher should have chosen a different draft version, or did/didn't write very convincing original material).


All that adds to the problems of neatly defining a 'canon' for Tolkien anyway, which are being discussed on the other subthread.



I guess to me what would be considered cannon is what J.R.R intended to be part of his finalized published works involving middle earth.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning”
- J.R.R Tolkien

“If you really want to know what middle earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as is, particularity the natural earth”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“If literature teaches us anything at all, it is this that we have in us an eternal element.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

(This post was edited by Tolkien R.R.J on Feb 6, 10:24pm)


Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 6, 10:24pm

Post #16 of 68 (4711 views)
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Hi Elthir! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that we are mostly in agreement here. I agree that it's important to keep in mind Tolkien's ostensible role as translator and rewriter (I've never found the "express train" line an issue for this reason, though I know a lot of people get hung up on it) and that the legendarium is not meant to be 100% consistent. One of the main challenges for me in reading the First and Second Ages is determining which variations should be understood as arising from the Secondary World textual tradition and which should be understood from a Primary World perspective as ideas that Tolkien considered and rejected. Not that you need me to tell you this or anything.

I think that works published in Tolkien's lifetime absolutely need to be given priority, as Tolkien himself did, but my main issue with the idea of canon is the binary "it either exists or it doesn't" approach seen in e.g. the Star Wars universe's continuity. I think that the 1977 Silmarillion establishes a useful baseline for analysis of the First Age and I have no problem referring to it as evidence most of the time despite the rewriting (both large- and small-scale) that occurred in the editing process. Same can be said of the 2007 edition of The Children of Húrin, although I personally find it more convenient to consult the similar version found in UT, in part because shelf space in my current home is so limited and I don't have my copy of CoH on hand. Tongue

I think that we've previously discussed the creation of "personal Silmarillions" elsewhere and I still think that's a totally valid thing to do (somewhat self-servingly perhaps since I do it myself all the time); I just don't think it has anything to do with "canon" as that's usually defined in fandom contexts. I often follow Christopher's own speculation in HoMe -- e.g., my mental version of the legendarium has Princes of Belfalas existing for some 2000 odd years before changing their title to Prince of Dol Amroth -- but I'll happily mix and match things. I just try to keep the different variations in mind and to not rely overmuch on my personal preferences when engaging in discussion with others, although I'm sure they slip through at times.

I agree that the published Silmarillion is a marvelous read, even if my personal Silmarillion includes the death of Amrod and has Gil-galad be the great-grandson of Finarfin. Cool


(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 6, 10:25pm)


Tolkien R.R.J
The Shire

Feb 6, 10:30pm

Post #17 of 68 (4699 views)
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Even if we restrict ourselves to the narrowest definition of canon -- those works published during Tolkien's own lifetime -- we are not left with a wholly consistent picture.


I agree my friend. I'm convinced that Tolkien desired to include a certain measure of inconsistency (based on perspective and authorship) to give the legendarium a more realistic sense of being a compiled collection of various texts.

Perry-the-Winkle's troll and the Olog-hai are both canon, both from imagined internal texts, both author published. And for me, certain arguable anachronisms can be the result of Tolkien as translator/modern storyteller.


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Of course, limiting ourself only to works published in Tolkien's lifetime excludes the vast majority of available information about the First Age and is therefore an unsatisfactory solution to many readers (myself included).


Characterizing only Tolkien's published work as canon, as I do (plus the map by Pauline Baynes), doesn't limit me though; or at least I don't feel limited, not from imagining the Elder Days, nor when I chat about them.

What is does is provide me with a valuable gift in order to better engage with Tolkien's world, and believe in "green suns" so to speak. Why did Guy Kay talk Christopher Tolkien into a one volume Silmarillion version? In my opinion because he knew that reading the constructed Silmarillion would not be the same experience as a scholarly approach (though that too has its own kind of rewards).

They agreed that readers want to read!

Same would go for the constructed Children of Hurin, I think.

I recall (at another site) someone essentially giving up trying to understand the history of Galadriel and Celeborn for instance. Too complicated he/she said. I find that a bit of a shame really, but it's the seemingly inevitable result of all the posthumously published material...

... if we let it confuse us with respect to what Tolkien himself published/revealed to his readership. For myself, I find it interesting that late in life, for instance, Tolkien was thinking of making Celeborn a Teler of Aman.

Still, Celeborn is not a Teler when I go back to Middle-earth, and I have (my definition of) canon to thank for this.


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Therefore any attempt at constructing an internally consistent and comprehensive canon of the First Age must be a fan project, which undermines the entire concept of canon.


I see your point, but as long as we acknowledge that by doing this we are not attempting to define canon outside of Tolkien-published work... well, in a sense we are happily constructing our own Silmarillions, with no two versions likely being exactly the same.

Yet Tolkien's published corpus remains as a guide -- which I would argue that even he "must" consider canon, and I think he illustrates this in various ways, even when revising already published accounts, like Bilbo's account of his finding the One, for instance.


And with respect to any edition of The Hobbit not being canon (which I realize you are not arguing for, but merely raised the matter here), I think this position is not easily defended given what I characterize as Tolkien's own (published) acceptance of even the first edition as an internal text.


I enjoy both The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin constructions. I don't consider them canon and don't think they were meant to be considered as such.

And I think they work very well as satisfying book experiences, even if, especially after I've finished The Silmarillion (and no longer swept up in it), for example, in my Middle-earth, one of Feanor's sons dies in the flames of Losgar.

Does this happen in your Middle-earth?

There's nothing in the canon either way Wink



Great post and thanks for your perspective i like it. Of course his published works are canon and in his letters said they have priority and nothing should contradict them and still be canon. Tolkien saught to harmonize any supposed contradictions and i think had he lived, would have reconciled any with the silmarillion.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning”
- J.R.R Tolkien

“If you really want to know what middle earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as is, particularity the natural earth”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“If literature teaches us anything at all, it is this that we have in us an eternal element.”
-J.R.R Tolkien


Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 6, 10:46pm

Post #18 of 68 (4706 views)
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There's no one right approach [In reply to] Can't Post


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I have just spent some time on your website great stuff thank you.


Thank you very much!


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I dont hold any view 100% and was looking to be convinced by more knowledgeable persons such as yourself. I have read on the man Tolkien much more than his works. But I do think he wanted to have a constant [though not seen by all perspectives and memories] history of middle earth. His letters are full of solving perceived contradictions in his writings.


I think you're absolutely correct about Tolkien's desire here. In the absence of a finished version, however, I prefer to look at "The Silmarillion" (distinguished by the quotation marks from The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien and published in 1977) as a dynamic, evolving body of work. It would be wonderful if Tolkien had finished the work, not just in terms of having definitive answers but more importantly (for me) because it would involve a lot of ideas being fleshed out in greater detail than we have. Because Tolkien did not do this, however, the most developed versions of many ideas and story (such as The Fall of Gondolin) are from relatively early stages of the mythology. Looking only at texts consistent with Tolkien's probable views at the end of his life (insofar as those can be determined; they can't always) means that we lose a lot of depth and detail from the legendarium.


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A silmarillion must be made to complete the history, and Christopher is the best option as his son and a fellow inkling. But of course it is not J.R.R tolkiens silmarillion. How close? I am unsure of course. I would guess pretty damn close.

For the published material after the silmarillion were all these works intended to even be published by his father? or did he more just put out more of his fathers writings for the fans?


Doug Kane documented many of the editorial decisions and changes made by Christopher and Guy Kay in Arda Reconstructed, although he did not have access to the original manuscripts. It's nonetheless a really impressive work even though I don't entirely agree with all of his conclusions. There were a lot of changes made in order to distill a mostly internally consistent volume from 60 years of work by the elder Tolkien. I think that Christopher did a remarkable job, but he never presented the 1977 Silm as beyond reproach and he critiqued his editorial process in notes included in The History of Middle-earth series. I don't think that JRRT would have published all his drafts if he had finished "The Silmarillion", but I am very grateful to Christopher for making them available for the purposes of scholarship, as he also did with the drafts of LOTR.

I think that Christopher's description of The Silmarillion in the Foreword is relevant here:


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A complete consistency (either within the compass of The Silmarillion itself or between The Silmarillion and other published writings of my father's) is not to be looked for, and could only be achieved, if at all at heavy and needless cost. Moreover, my father came to conceive The Silmarillion as a compilation, a compendious narrative, made long afterwards from sources of great diversity (poems, and annals, and oral tales) that had survived in agelong tradition; and this conception has indeed its parallel in the actual history of the book, for a great deal of earlier prose and poetry does underlie it, and it is to some extent a compendium in fact and not only in theory.


But ultimately each individual reader is free to make of the legendarium what they will. Smile


(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 6, 10:48pm)


Elthir
Grey Havens

Feb 7, 12:07am

Post #19 of 68 (4682 views)
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I agree that the published Silmarillion is a marvelous read, even if my personal Silmarillion includes the death of Amrod and has Gil-galad be the great-grandson of Finarfin. Cool


Huzzah! Our Silmarillions agree about both. Yet what about this detail: did Ambarto go to sleep at night and not wake up in the morning?

"In the night Feanor, filled with malice (...) and set them all aflame; and the dark sky was red as with a terrible dawn. (...) In the morning the host was mustered, but of Feanor's seven sons only six were to be found."

Hmm. Is this an Elvish "sun version" Smile

I forget where I stand on the Dol Amroth issue...

[stomps to bookshelf and back]

... reading it over again, I think CJRT's attempt at reconciliation here is acceptable enough.

I probably would favor the "latest" idea where no conflict with author-publish texts exists, but considering that the very late note (Dec. 1972 or later) refers to Nimrodel or her companion, we seem to be back to the Third Age despite the ambiguity of "earliest fathers" in this specific note...

... in others words, it seems Tolkien's referring again to the Imrazor/Galador version, and so "latest" version gets a bit hazy here, considering how late the author's note to Cirion And Eorl could be as well.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 7, 12:12am)


Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 7, 2:36am

Post #20 of 68 (4649 views)
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I am without my copy of The Peoples of Middle-earth and I would have to consult it to give a meaningful response to your questions. As far as the Dol Amroth issue is concerned I can say offhand that I prefer the notion of the Princes of Belfalas existing from an early date because it provides some much-needed detail to help illustrate my theories about Gondorian ethnography, an early version of which you critiqued a couple years ago on another forum, but that never quite achieved a developed enough form to turn into a proper essay. Angelic


(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 7, 2:37am)


Attalus
Lorien


Feb 7, 5:09am

Post #21 of 68 (4626 views)
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I agree that the published Silmarillion is a marvelous read,

Sad to disagree. It took me ten years to get through my copy, bought in '77 when it first came out. I can still recall the stacks of books at the bookstore and my ex-wife's snooty ignoring my happiness at finding what I had wanted for so long. A terrible disappointment, if you ask me.

It sits on my bookshelf, having been read only once in forty years. I prefer The Book of Lost TalesUnsure

We are the fighting Uruk-Hai! We slew the great warrior! Well, yeah, first he killed a bunch of us and another whole lot of Mauhúr's lads, and we had to shoot enough arrows into him to drop a Mûmak. But we got him!


Eldorion
Gondor


Feb 7, 6:24am

Post #22 of 68 (4609 views)
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A friend from my D&D group loaned me his copy of The Silmarillion in '05 or '06, when I was about eleven, and I loved it from the word go. Did a lot of flipping back and forth between the main text and the family trees at the end, especially on the first read-through, but it fired my imagination. I've always been a big fan of worldbuilding so those parts in particular spoke to me, especially at that age when my appreciation of the nuances of character and theme was still relatively underdeveloped. But there are a lot of beautiful images and moments throughout The Silmarillion. The framework can be a little awkward but I was in a sense primed for that since I already liked reading compendiums of Greek mythology like D'Aulaires' and Edith Hamilton. TS is probably my most re-read Tolkien book, though to be sure there's a ton of material in UT and HoMe that elevates the First Age stories and are a big part of my enjoyment thereof.


(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 7, 6:27am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 7, 9:44am

Post #23 of 68 (4582 views)
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Definitions and their practical use [In reply to] Can't Post


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I guess to me what would be considered cannon is what J.R.R intended to be part of his finalized published works involving middle earth.


I've seen Tolkien 'canon' defined in different ways on this site. I think that, because there isn't (thankfully) a Canon Authority or Canon Court, it all comes down to a matter of opinion, and it's interesting to hear what yours is.

But I'm personally only a little interested in definitions, at least until I've understood what practical difference having a workable definition would make. I'm still at sea on whether it is even important in any way. Perhaps that is something you can tell us about? What I mean is: what difference does the distinction between canon and non-canon make in your mind? What consequences (for you) flow from being aware that a certain piece might not have been intended as part of the finalised works? Are you simply a bit mindful that JRR might have put a piece aside knowing that it was unsatisfactory, and might yet have made all kinds of changes? Or it is more than that?

At risk of sounding legalistic, I think that if I use your definition I have to try to determine JRR's intention, which will be tricky sometimes. For example - did JRR intend to publish the Silmarillion? It's debatable. I think he very much wanted to publish it, but getting it into a finished state was beyond him for some reason. So it's probably hard to establish whether he intended to publish some or all of the material that did eventually make it, or whether he intended to publish something that he hadn't been able to get down on paper. For a lot of other material too - e.g. Unfinished Tales - it's often unclear whether JRR intended to publish them, and if so how far towards 'finished' a certain piece was. But those problems apply, I think, to any definition of 'canon' that goes beyond 'only those works where JRR personally signed off the final proofs'. And while easy to use that definition would seem to leave us with only the tip of the iceberg.

~~~~~~
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


ange1e4e5
Rohan

Feb 7, 3:03pm

Post #24 of 68 (4548 views)
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I was disappointed by Beren and Luthien myself; [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought it would be more like The Children of Hurin in that The Children of Hurin read like a novel.

I always follow my job through.


Darkstone
Immortal


Feb 7, 3:09pm

Post #25 of 68 (4553 views)
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Canon - "an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture" [In reply to] Can't Post

As far as literary canon is concerned, here is an illustrative example of canon versus non-canon works:

https://en.wikipedia.org/...n_of_Sherlock_Holmes

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair.
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today.
I wish he would just fly away.




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