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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Review of The Fall of Gondolin


Oct 24, 3:02pm

Post #1 of 8 (2148 views)
Review of The Fall of Gondolin Can't Post

My review of The Fall of Gondolin has just been published at the Journal of Tolkien Research.


It's a bit long, but I'd love to hear people's thoughts.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Oct 24, 3:55pm

Post #2 of 8 (2095 views)
Very thorough! [In reply to] Can't Post

Just finished it, and yes, I read it all! I haven't read the book yet, though my copy is waiting on my shelf. It's been so long since I read "The Silmarillion" that your review provided a great refresher on that work and how it links to this new one. It makes me want to go back and reread it before reading this one.

I really enjoyed your pointing out some of the differences between texts that didn't have a clear explanation for why, and your insights into why. Your referring to letters and ruminations from Christopher Tolkien were insightful, as was your inclusion of his lament that the tale was never finished.

Thank you for taking the time to write such an insightful and thorough review!


Oct 24, 4:55pm

Post #3 of 8 (2079 views)
You're welcome! And thank you. [In reply to] Can't Post

Your comments were very heartening. If I can help spark some additional interest in the First Age tales I am doing a good thing, and helping Christopher himself in his efforts "to try to give more prominence to the nature of ďThe Silmarillioní and its vital existence in relation to The Lord of the Rings.Ē

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Oct 24, 5:55pm

Post #4 of 8 (2074 views)
It seems like two articles in one. [In reply to] Can't Post

One is a scholarly article, drawing on your experience with "Arda Reconstructed", which documents every variation between the texts in the new books and their previous publication in the earlier books.

The other is a review of "Fall of Gondolin" as a book, commenting on its origins, structure, and usefulness and readability.

Both have a place, I would guess, in a venue like Journal of Tolkien Research. So I can see why you might have combined the two briefs, as it were, but they clash in several places, distracting or distancing the reader.

The lengthy opening recap of the publication history of Gondolin in earlier Tolkien books seemed more detailed than a specialist reader of a Tolkien Studies journal would need. But that's always a problem in writing about Tolkien at a more-than-just-fans level!

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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Oct 24, 6:31pm

Post #5 of 8 (2061 views)
Thanks for your thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

It certainly is not a traditional review, and "grew in the telling" to paraphrase Tolkien. I give Doug Anderson credit for being willing to publish it as is.

I agree that the opening recap is not providing new information to a typical reader of a journal like JTR but I still wanted to give a sense of the importance of the new work in the grand scheme of Tolkien's work.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Oct 28, 3:25am

Post #6 of 8 (1941 views)
Thank you very much! [In reply to] Can't Post

Regarding the apparently seamless transition from one source to the other you've mentioned - isn't this a regular technique of Christopher Tolkien's? He seems to use it quite often in HoME, and even in the recently published Beowulf.


Nov 30, 2:48am

Post #7 of 8 (982 views)
Thanks from Lurker Space [In reply to] Can't Post

[self-indulgent intro]

It seems ages ago since I last visited the Reading Room. Although Iíve participated in a minor way over the years, a lurker I remain, and not a devoted one. I must say I was pleased yesterday to note that a few of the faithful yet linger. The Squire and noWizardme continue to astound me with their insights and sense of community.

I just retrieved my copy of Arda Reconstructed, to be sure I was not mistaken regarding your authorship. I read it some time ago, but recall vividly how much I enjoyed it. I spent many years immersed in Tolkien criticism, but eventually moved on to other reading bucket lists. But recently Middle-earth floated to the top again, like a crate of fine pipe weed among the ruins of old Isengard.

I pre-ordered The Fall of Gondolin and read it as soon as it arrived (in September). Iíve kept up with Tolkienís posthumous writings as they were published, beginning with The Silmarillion in 1977. Iíve read each work Christopher has prepared. I was lucky enough to attend classes with Verlyn Flieger in the mid-1980s, when Unfinished Tales was the latest thing, lamenting with her that it provided both the joy of discovery and a profound sense of loss at what would never be.

[material of questionable relevance]

IĎve just read (rapidly, I admit) your review of The Fall of Gondolin, and found it both enjoyable and enlightening. I would guess Iím on the low end of the narrow spectrum of your audience. As an obsessive reader Iím a sucker for a moving tale, but I also have a limited ability to appreciate literary analysis. In that capacity I also consider myself a lurker. Itís likely (perhaps a certainty) that the Tolkien criticism Iíve read is equal in volume to the works he published during his lifetime, but I choose to admire practitioners, over over-thinking the particulars myself. With that to consider, along with my apologies, the significance of your contribution to my appreciation of Tolkienís works will become clear following yet another digression.

I have a dear friend, an avid Tolkien fan, who could never finish Christopherís scholarly breakdown of his fatherís unfinished works. He studied biology; I have a degree in English Literature. I spent several years as an undergraduate in the humanities and also received a masters in Library Science, studying the organization of knowledge. I wonder if my friend would better appreciate the dissection of a rare amphibian, since he apparently has little interest in the dissection of rare literary artifacts. I also know a brilliant doctor, who considers Christopherís editing too heavy-handed, and not worthy of his consideration. I often find myself defending Christopher Tolkienís work and intentions to those, like him, who fail to fully appreciate his contributions to The Legendarium.

[FINALLY! my thanks to you for your astute diligence]

As a devoted J.R.R. Tolkien fan for over forty years Iíve enjoyed reading everything I could get my hands on. Iím eternally grateful that his son Christopher, the logical and qualified steward of his fatherís writings, organized and published the trove of complex manuscripts bequeathed to him. And finally, Iím grateful to you for providing such cogent analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of his efforts. Iím afraid that in my eagerness to enjoy every scrap of lore, I fail to read the details critically enough.

In correspondence with Professor Flieger Iíve discussed the commonly held notion that Tolkienís mythologies intentionally and accidentally resemble the scattered, incomplete, contradictory, and mysterious output of a lost people. A reality that mirrors Tolkienís own fascination and frustration that he could never fully grasp the myths and stories of his ancient ancestors. And so it seems his son must face that same reality regarding his fathers invented history. And even more removed you struggle to put the pieces to that impossible puzzle together. Thanks.

I am Khim akin to Mim.


Nov 30, 5:31am

Post #8 of 8 (974 views)
Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I will reply in more depth when I have more time but I wanted to say I really enjoyed reading your post and I greatly appreciate your kind words.

How wonderful that you has the opportunity to study with the wonderful Verlyn Flieger during that early time of discovery. I love her work and even more her kind spirit.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


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