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Post by Bluebottle on Tue Sep 16, 2014 4:57 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:The space elevator is still a good possibility, last I read about it they were getting pretty close to cracking the major problem- creating a cable that can take the stresses and strains.

Yeah, the cool thing about the whole concept is that, while being distinctly science fiction in nature, with a bit of technological development it would not only be feasible, but quite successful in a real world context.

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Post by Eldorion on Tue May 17, 2016 10:24 pm

Bumping this thread because I got back into things after a month's break and finished expanding and moving out the Lore essays from my old Wordpress site to the new Tumblr one. The one that got considerably more expansion was my piece on canon, which actually predated this thread and used to be only four paragraphs long. My views on this matter are still largely the same but I won't promise complete continuity with everything I said five or six years ago. Razz

http://nolondil.tumblr.com/post/144518958061/the-futility-of-canon

I think the formatting is nicer at the link and it includes images, but I'll copy and paste it here too. Much obliged to Elthir in the original round of activity in this thread and to everyone else who has discussed the concept of a Tolkien canon with me over the years. As always this is just my take on things, though I like to think its an informed one.




The Futility of Canon

The question of what the “Tolkien canon” is, or whether it even exists, is a deceptively tricky one. The first issue is that there is some disagreement over what exactly the term means. The more common definition in literary criticism is “the works of a writer that have been accepted as authentic” (Wiktionary). This is more of an issue with historical literature, where authorship is often unclear and there is sometimes suspicion that a work is a forgery. In the context of Tolkien, there’s no real issue with determining which works were truly written by him. However, a great many of Tolkien’s incomplete stories and early drafts have been published since his death, many of which never achieved a finished form, which raises the question of how much weight they should be given. This leads into the second relevant definition of canon, the one common in fandom circles: “Those sources, especially including literary works, which are generally considered authoritative regarding a given fictional universe”.

Questions of canon in fandom typically involve franchises with a great number of published works by different authors that rely on a complex, well-developed setting as part of their appeal. One famous example is the Star Wars franchise, which in addition to the mainline movies includes a mass of made-for-TV movies and shows, comic books, novels, and video games. Lucasfilm Ltd., the company in charge of Star Wars, closely reviews new tie-in media to maintain continuity between these works, but in some cases the shared universe moves on and older works are declared “non-canon” and no longer binding on future works. In the case of Tolkien, there is only one author who has worked in the setting (although Christopher Tolkien had to make creative decisions at times in his editorial capacity), and the Tolkien Estate does not have a policy creating a hierarchy between Tolkien’s various works. The relative lack of spin-off media (excluding the movies, which have their own continuity between themselves) renders many of the typical questions of canon moot.

One of the main questions that does come up in Tolkien fandom is the aforementioned editorial role of Christopher Tolkien, principally in regards to The Silmarillion. The elder Tolkien worked on the complex of legends, stories, and related linguistic and philosophical that comprises the mythology of the First Age over a span of nearly 60 years. These stories shifted in form and content over time, although structurally they were largely settled by the late 1930s. Late in his life Tolkien contemplated radical revisions of fundamental concepts in his mythology without following through on them, but at his death in 1973 some key stories, especially The Fall of Gondolin, had not been fully rewritten since the 1910s, leaving them at odds with much of the other material. Tolkien’s will gave his third son and literary executor, Christopher, “full power to publish edit alter rewrite or complete any work of mine which may be unpublished at my death or to destroy the whole or any part or parts of any such unpublished works as he in his absolute discretion may think fit and subject thereto”. Fortunately, Christopher decided to edit these works into a form suitable for publication, but he immediately faced an unenviable dilemma:

It became clear to me that to attempt to present, within the covers of a single book the diversity of the materials – to show The Silmarillion as in truth a continuing and evolving creation extending over more than half a century – would in fact lead only to confusion and the submerging of what is essential I set myself therefore to work out a single text selecting and arranging in such a way as seemed to me to produce the most coherent and internally self-consistent narrative. (Christopher Tolkien, Foreword to The Silmarillion)

Tolkien had long desired the publication of “The Silmarillion”, which he considered his most important work, so Christopher (assisted by Guy Gavriel Kay, who later became an acclaimed fantasy novelist in his own right) began the task of turning “The Silmarillion”, the vast and often contradictory body of works left at his father’s death, into The Silmarillion, the single, more or less cohesive volume that was published in 1977. The overwhelming majority of the words in The Silmarillion are Tolkien’s own, but they are sometimes pieced together from texts written decades apart in order to achieve complete and mutually consistent versions of all the constituent parts of the mythology. The main exception to this is the chapter “Of the Ruin of Doriath”, which was largely written by Christopher himself, as there was little to work with that could be made consistent with the rest of the emerging volume without substantial rewriting. Christopher also rejected most of Tolkien’s late ideas to make the cosmological framework of “The Silmarillion” more compatible with modern science, as Tolkien never made the comprehensive rewrites of long-settled works that these changes would have necessitated.

Following the publication of The Silmarillion, Christopher moved on to Unfinished Tales, giving readers a taste of less settled Tolkien works, and following the success of that book embarked on his 12 volume exploration of the evolution of “The Silmarillion” and The Lord of the RingsThe History of Middle-earth. Over the course of this longer and deeper study of the manuscripts, Christopher came at certain points to question decisions he had made when editing The Silmarillion, and suggested that he could have achieved his aim of publishing the book with less editorial intrusion. One such point is the parentage of Gil-galad, which appears somewhat contradictory in the published Silmarillion (the crown passes to Fingon’s brother before going to his son), but that Christopher decided 19 years later was based on a passing idea of his father’s that had never been fully implemented. As such, many fans consider the version of Gil-galad’s parentage given in The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996) to be the “true” one, even though this change was not incorporated into the second edition of The Silmarillion (1999), which made no changes of note to the text.

While some fans have a regrettable and unjustifiable antipathy for Christopher’s editorial decisions (he deserves our gratitude for giving us both the edited single volume and the expansive 12 volume version, though the latter would likely never have seen the light of day if not for the success of the former), The Silmarillion remains a highly condensed version of the Elder Days, and much of the beauty and richness of the work Tolkien was most dedicated to can only be appreciated through reading the drafts available in HoMe, incomplete as they mostly are. It’s not simply intriguing details like Gil-galad, but also more fleshed out characterization for characters from Melkor to Maedhros and many details of the languages and philosophical ideas that underpin the mythology but didn’t fit into the main narrative. Had Tolkien finished “The Silmarillion” himself (which is a questionable proposition even if he had lived another 10 years), it would likely have been a compendium containing not only the Quenta Silmarillion and its associated tales, but several lengthy essays included as appendices. While the published Silmarillion does consist of five semi-distinct works, the philological essays were excluded (for understandable reasons). The unabridged versions of the “Great Tales” of Beren, Túrin, and Tuor were also left in too undeveloped of a state to include (length was also a consideration), though Túrin’s was eventually published as a stand-alone volume 30 years later. But all of these tales, as far as they were developed by Tolkien, can be read in UT and HoMe.

In light of the abridgments and the points in which it arguably diverges from Tolkien’s latest intentions, many fans are reluctant to accord The Silmarillion full “canonical” status. This can lead to a grab bag approach, where people construct their own “Silmarillion” canons (either individually or in groups) from the published version and a mix of various ideas from HoMe. It is alluring to approach the whole body of work as similar to primary world mythologies, which tend to survive as incomplete collections of sometimes contradictory stories. Coupled with Tolkien’s stated desire to create a mythology of his own and his description of feeling that he discovered things about his stories more than he created them on his own, it is tempting to attempt to “reconstruct” the “true” version of the First Age underlying all the different versions that have been published. However, Tolkien himself was concerned with consistency between his stories and wanted to arrange “The Silmarillion” in a complete form suitable for publication. We can’t claim to know how Tolkien would have done on this, or what ideas he would have kept and which he would have replaced with new ones. Treating Tolkien’s invented mythology as a vast puzzle often results in ideas that are not recognizably Tolkien’s, especially when trying to view Tolkien’s early stories through the lens of late conceptions that only entered the mythology decades later. This becomes a species of fanfiction, which is not necessarily without merit, but should not be presented as anything like authoritative.

The question of canon and The Silmarillion is intractable since Tolkien never came to a final decision on many points. For example, Tolkien originally imagined orcs as creations of Morgoth, but after introducing the idea that evil can only corrupt, not create, he went back and forth between many different possibilities for what orcs originally were, including elves, men, fallen Maiar, and beasts. He never definitively settled on one answer, nor did he solve the related question of whether orcs had free will or were irredeemably evil in a way that was consistent with all of his stories. We could rely on the published Silmarillion for the answers to such questions, and many do, but Christopher warned in the Foreword that “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.”With no official policy, any defined canon for the First Age must be a creation of fans, which undermines the very concept, and is ultimately a distraction from a deeper appreciation of both “The Silmarillion” and The Silmarillion.

Very well, one might say, but “The Silmarillion” is famous for the difficulty Tolkien had in attempting to complete it. It would seem reasonable to suppose that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as Tolkien’s two most famous books and the only two major works about Middle-earth that he published in his lifetime, would obviously be canonical. Indeed, many people define canon as simply being those works published during Tolkien’s lifetime, while those published posthumously are not (or perhaps are quasi-canonical, unless one is comfortable rejecting The Silmarillionentirely). However, even limiting ourselves to these two works (and the slim, lesser known volumesThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and The Road Goes Ever On, both published in the 1960s), there are still issues. Tolkien famously revised The Hobbit to make it more consistent with its sequel, primarily by rewriting the chapter “Riddles in the Dark” to reflect the more sinister nature of the Ring and the impact it had on Gollum. But much remains that gives the attentive reader pause.

One of the most obvious differences between the two books are the number of whimsical asides and anachronistic elements in The Hobbit that don’t fit comfortably into the more serious world established in The Lord of the Rings. Some of this can be explained away as a question of unreliable narrators. The Hobbit is presented as being based on Bilbo’s diary of his adventure, and when Tolkien wrote the second edition he did not declare the original non-canonical, but gave it a place in the framing device as a fibbed version that Bilbo told so that he wouldn’t appear as a thief of the Ring, an early example of the Ring’s corrupting influence on him. However, Bilbo is clearly not the narrator of The Hobbit, as the narrator is a modern figure who comments on the story and characters from an outside perspective, not always approvingly. Knowing that The Hobbit began as a bedtime story told by Tolkien to his sons, it is easy to hear this narrative voice as Tolkien’s own parental one, but the relationship of the narrator to the story he tells is left unclear in the book.

The narrator of The Lord of the Rings is far less intrusive, but Tolkien substantially developed and extended the conceit of the book as being based on the Hobbit characters’ own accounts, primarily on Frodo’s. At the end of The Return of the King, Frodo gives Sam a book bound in red leather, with the title “The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King”, which includes both Bilbo’s diary from the Quest of Erebor and Frodo’s account of the War of the Ring. Back in the Prologue, this book is called the Red Book of Westmarch, and a complex textual history of different versions and additions made by various figures is laid out. Middle-earth is described as a distant historical period of our own world, with Tolkien as the discoverer and translator of the tales (possibly assisted in the translation by a small surviving population of hobbits). Crucially, the book is not presented as a literal translation of the Red Book, but a modern adaptation of it. A note at the beginning of the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings distinguishes between ostensible direct quotations from the Red Book and the modern editor’s words. This also explains the modern voice of the narrator in The Hobbit.

This framing device is an important part of Tolkien’s goal of writing in a mythological style: as a medievalist he was aware of the convoluted paths that ancient tales took before they came to be read by modern audiences, and the Red Book is seemingly based on the real Red Book of Hergest, one of the collections that preserved the Welsh Mabinogion. Tolkien also wrote several revisions of a framing device for “The Silmarillion” centered on a figure known as Eriol, or Ælfwine, though late in life he probably changed his mind and thought of “The Silmarillion” as being preserved and transmitted in Bilbo’s three volume work Translations from the Elvish, which is mentioned as part of the Red Book in The Lord of the Rings. The framing device resolves certain questions, such as the infamous description of the fireworks-dragon flying over party-goers “like an express train”. This anachronistic analogy could not possibly have been made by a Hobbit, so it must have been introduced by Tolkien in his supposed role as translator/adapter of the Red Book.

Other elements are not so easily harmonized. Hobbits in general are an anachronism in Middle-earth, being based on Tolkien’s experiences growing up in rural England late in the reign of Queen Victoria, though his home was increasingly transformed upon by industrialization even during his childhood. Tolkien referred to the Shire as “in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee” (Letters, no. 178), and it’s social and political structure, while idealized, includes elements that seem centuries ahead of anything else in Middle-earth, including estate agents and a postal service. Bilbo has a small mechanical clock at home, where he eats potatoes and smokes tobacco (both New World crops not introduced in Europe until after Columbus). Some of this can be explained away: Dwarves may have made the clocks, and Tolkien himself presents an explanation for tobacco as being brought from Númenor to Middle-earth in the Second Age. Of course, many of these elements are present in The Lord of the Rings as well, but Bilbo’s use of matches in The Hobbit remains a particularly troublesome point.

Beyond details of worldbuilding, The Hobbit retains many artifacts of its origins as a stand-alone tale that borrowed names and ideas from “The Silmarillion” without being intended to form a part of that world. The behavior of some characters is different (Gandalf being unable to read the runes on the swords found in the trolls’ cave is at odds with both his shown abilities and his general reputation in the sequel), and the plot as a whole depends strongly on contrivance in a way that is taken in stride in a fairy tale or bedtime story, but strains credulity in a more serious work of sub-creation. Tolkien began a second revision of The Hobbit in 1960 with the intention of it making it more consistent with and stylistically similar to The Lord of the Rings that quickly turned into the beginnings of a full rewrite, though he abandoned it early on after receiving negative feedback, something that Tolkien normally did not take to heart. While he remained critical of the children’s book tone of The Hobbit, Tolkien made no major changes in the third edition of 1966.

In the end, all three of Tolkien’s major works of fiction (The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion) have their own distinctive features not shared by the other two, though of course they also form parts of a much greater whole. Tolkien worked on this overarching whole, his mythology or legendarium, for nearly all of his adult life, and it absorbed numerous originally unrelated works. Tolkien attempted to maintain continuity with his published works once The Lord of the Rings was in print, but he continued to fiddle even with the that work until the end. “The Silmarillion”, without a published referent except for brief mentions in The Lord of the Rings, was of course in a much more fluid state at the end of Tolkien’s life than either of his Third Age works. The desire to know lots of facts and details about Tolkien’s secondary world in all the Ages of its history is understandable and a testament to the creative power of his work, but Tolkien himself did not know all the answers. The legendarium, by its nature, does not provide a good foundation on which to built a solid, strict continuity. However, by reading the successive draft versions of Tolkien’s stories, as we are able to thanks to The History of Middle-earth and The History of The Hobbit, the dedicated reader is able to see the full scope of the evolving body of work - with its through-lines, its variations on single tales, its wildly divergent branches - and gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of Tolkien’s accomplishment. And that, ultimately, is far more rewarding than having an “official” explanation for the origins of orcs.
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Post by halfwise on Tue May 17, 2016 11:31 pm

Nice and clearly put as always, Eldo; but if you look back on the previous page wouldn't it be more concise to say that cannons are futile because you can't make them long enough to achieve orbital velocity with a reasonable acceleration?

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 18, 2016 5:20 pm

Thanks halfwise! Very Happy

I could say that, but then I'd have to start thinking about the canonical status of Ilmen, Menel, and the other Airs of Arda's cosmology. Razz
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Post by Elthir on Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:51 pm

To simplify my stance: Tolkien canon is Tolkien-published work.

I usually get resistance to that.

Eldy has already touched upon how canon definitions might be applied to the Tolkien scenario. And as noted, today we have no great problem determining what Tolkien actually wrote -- even including distinguishing J.R.R. Tolkien from Christopher Tolkien too, given The History of Middle-Earth series -- this distinction wasn't so easy (to understate the matter) between the years 1977 and the publication of HOME 12.

And I'll add my seemingly silly-ish distinction. We aren't dealing with the Bible here, for example. And so when I say The Silmarillion isn't canon, or the Athrabeth, or so many other posthumously published works, I am not proposing that the works are "to be dismissed" --  in a way a biblical scholar might dismiss The Infancy Gospel of Thomas for example.

Nor do I mean to suggest that Tolkien's posthumously published works are "ungood" or without merit. To be honest, I sometimes get the feeling that folks think I mean these things. Rather, Tolkien-published work as canon is a distinction that in my opinion grants its own reward.


I also argue that author-published work was canon to Tolkien as well, and naturally "must" be, as this goes hand in hand with the art of writing and sub-creating. Here's a humorous illustration in which publication is not concerned.

"Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a gold 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 my father muttered "Damn the boy," and then "strode across the room" to his desk to make a note."

Christopher Tolkien

Or consider Deus ex machina. Tolkien notes (letter 210) that the eagles can be a dangerous machine, but of course,
as the "god" of his story, Tolkien can use the eagles whenever he wants! That said, can he change perceptions in the minds of readers that might give rise to the criticism of over-using, or leaning too much on, the eagles?

Or can he change the reason for Christopher Tolkien's criticism above, which can stand for more than "petty" unwanted inconsistencies?

There are, for lack of a better word here, "rules" that Tolkien must consider, even when he steps on them on purpose they are still there to consider -- but to that I'll add, unless you're dealing with Christopher Tolkien's notable memory, only when publication raises its pragmatic head. A readership expects things. And while some of my statements might seem too obvious to say, or too simplified to give much heed, if any, sometimes I feel it is this simplicity that is often enough overlooked.

"It may be suggested that whereas my father set great store by consistency at all points with The Lord of the Rings and the Appendices, so little concerning the First Age had appeared in print that he was under far less constraint. I am inclined to think, however, that the primary explanation of these differences lies rather in his writing largely from memory. The histories of the First Age would always remain in a somewhat fluid state so long as they were not fixed in a published state; and he certainly did not have all the relevant manuscripts clearly arranged and set out before him."

CJRT, Foreword, The Peoples of Middle-Earth

Again, seems obvious to mention perhaps, but what does it say about how Tolkien viewed canon? For example, Tolkien doesn't, and needn't, care if he transforms Sador Labadal into a Fist Age Drûg.



Eldy wrote:The legendarium, by its nature, does not provide a good foundation on which to built a solid, strict continuity. However, by reading the successive draft versions of Tolkien’s stories, as we are able to thanks to The History of Middle-earth and The History of The Hobbit, the dedicated reader is able to see the full scope of the evolving body of work - with its through-lines, its variations on single tales, its wildly divergent branches - and gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of Tolkien’s accomplishment. And that, ultimately, is far more rewarding than having an “official” explanation for the origins of orcs.

I get your drift here, as some say (or used to say?), but considering a different emphasis, I'd like to add my opinion that both experiences include their own, notable rewards. I'm still having trouble describing what I feel is the importance of the internal experience, and so far, possibly my "best" argument is a question based on posthumously published texts! Which seems odd, I know, but here goes . . .

. . . why did Christopher Tolkien produce his one volume Silmarillion despite that he first intended to publish something more like an "abbreviated" History of the Silmarillion (or if anyone likes, why did CJRT give in to the advice of Guy Kay concerning this matter)? Or better yet, why produce The Children of Hurin? There's more than one answer to this of course, but let's try . . .

. . . what was one of the rewards to the reader, despite that CJRT never presents COH as canon? In my opinion, the reward I'm thinking of is great, if very different from the rewards of HOME. Or to put it this way . . .

. . . I love to read a story Very Happy

I love to engage with the tale in an internal way, and for that, canon helps greatly in my opinion. For that, I don't care that Tolkien reconsidered this or that in posthumously published texts -- that kind of thing is very inteteresting (I'm going to let that spelling stand because I find it interesting) on one level, but doesn't help me believe in Middle-earth while I'm happily in it.

I wish I could put it better. Or perhaps it doesn't make sense? I hope some of this is at least inteteresting Wink

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Post by halfwise on Thu Aug 20, 2020 6:41 pm

One wants canon because it helps in the believability of a world: something IS true in this world; the history is not mutable. Appreciation for Tolkien's accomplishment is a different feeling that's closer to the intellectual thrill of a historian studying an event with a critical eye as opposed to letting one's self be submerged into it as pure experience.

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Post by Elthir on Thu Aug 20, 2020 9:54 pm

halfwise wrote:One wants canon because it helps in the believability of a world: something IS true in this world; the history is not mutable. Appreciation for Tolkien's accomplishment is a different feeling that's closer to the intellectual thrill of a historian studying an event with a critical eye as opposed to letting one's self be submerged into it as pure experience.

Double Huzzah Halfy!

Thumbs Up

Why'd it take me eight thousand words to try to say that?

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Post by Eldy on Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:13 am

You guys raise some interesting points which have given me a lot of food for thought tonight, but I find the idea of canon makes the "internal" aspect less enjoyable for me.

halfwise wrote:One wants canon because it helps in the believability of a world: something IS true in this world; the history is not mutable. Appreciation for Tolkien's accomplishment is a different feeling that's closer to the intellectual thrill of a historian studying an event with a critical eye as opposed to letting one's self be submerged into it as pure experience.

Personally, I don't think the believability of a fictional world is increased by being given lots of cut-and-dried, "immutable" facts about it. That's not how Tolkien wrote, either, for the most part. With the exception of some of his comments in the Letters, and notes to himself that he never expected to be published, he didn't tend to reveal information about the Secondary World by simply dropping facts on the reader. Rather, both his stories and histories (and even many of the philosophical and philological essays found in HoMe) are presented as in-universe texts with authors who lived within the Secondary World. Those authors worked with imperfect knowledge and were influenced by their own experiences and biases. As a result, we often can't say with certainty whether "something IS true". My go-to example of Tolkien's chroniclers being fallible is the Akallabêth's attempt to absolve the Faithful of responsibility for Númenórean colonial abuses, which is sharply at odds with much of Tolkien's other writing on the subject. But entire academic papers can and have been written on the subject of narrative bias in the legendarium.

This isn't entirely relevant to the canon debate, but I see some of the same principles in play there. One consequence of Tolkien's way of revealing information about the legendarium is that it puts the ball in the reader's court, inviting them to think critically about what they are reading and draw their own conclusions about what "really" happened. That's also how things work in the Primary World, of course, and it's one of the reasons I find Tolkien's world far more immersive and verisimilar than, for example, JK Rowling's. Although the process of sorting through Tolkien's various takes on any given idea and deciding which to privilege requires readers to use different criteria than when engaging in in-universe historiography, I think the process is broadly similar.

Elthir wrote:I love to engage with the tale in an internal way, and for that, canon helps greatly in my opinion. For that, I don't care that Tolkien reconsidered this or that in posthumously published texts -- that kind of thing is very inteteresting (I'm going to let that spelling stand because I find it interesting) on one level, but doesn't help me believe in Middle-earth while I'm happily in it.

I definitely understand the appeal in this. It may or may not be clear from my blathering about personal Silmarillions, but part of my motivation for assembling my own personal conception of the First Age is that it helps me "engage with the tale in an internal way". I have a ton of respect for the work Christopher put into assembling the '77 Silm, and I've loved it since the first time I read it, but I think it pales in comparison to the depth and richness of the larger First Age corpus. I'm not willing to give up the actual text of the Oath of Fëanor (which gives me chills), the larger and more detailed cast of female characters, the romance of Aegnor and Andreth, or the Wanderings of Húrin, to give just a few examples. But once I start reaching beyond the limits of the '77 Silm, there's no guarantee my version of the First Age will be the same as anyone else's, so I see no reason to even bring up the concept of canon.

My views on this subject have evolved over the years. I used to put a lot of emphasis on finding Tolkien's chronologically last word on everything. So long as I used consistent rules which I could justify in debates, I could claim to be following a shared continuity of sorts, even if it wasn't a canon (since that concept requires a higher authority than fan-theorists). But I've come to believe that fixating on chronology doesn't always result in the most interesting or satisfying version of a given tale—if there even is a clear last word (there often isn't). I have ulterior motives when it comes to Gil-galad, and I'll happily take things on a case-by-case basis rather than sticking to grand principles. I'm still able to take off my scholarly hat and escape into the world of the story, so to speak, and I find this experience all the more enjoyable for the leg-work that went into constructing a version of the First Age that emphasizes the things I like most about Tolkien. Very Happy I just try not to rely on subjective value judgments when engaging in "serious" lore discussions, which personal Silmarillions do not properly enter into.

That said, if other people ever adopt my theory that the Blue Wizards' "secret cults and 'magic' traditions" were actually hidden ninja villages like in Naruto, I'd be delighted. :prof:
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Post by Elthir on Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:14 am

halfwise wrote:One wants canon because it helps in the believability of a world: something IS true in this world; the history is not mutable. Appreciation for Tolkien's accomplishment is a different feeling that's closer to the intellectual thrill of a historian studying an event with a critical eye as opposed to letting one's self be submerged into it as pure experience.

I hope to have time to respond more to Eldy's recent post, but for now here's my reason for Halfy's double huzzah.

Halfy's "true/not mutable" to me represents a statement about the true legendarium.

For example, over the years I've blathered for the "ratification" of The Drowning of Anadûnê  --  ratification in the sense that I think Tolkien intended it to be part of the legendarium. Obviously I can't put DA into the legendarium and call it canon, even though I can adopt DA into my personal legendarium and tell folks why I do.

For anyone who might no have read it, DA contains purposed, considered inconsistencies. Is X likely to be garbled in a Mannish account of the Fall of Numenor? And if so, why (kind of a pun considering X and "why" but not intended). Artistic discrepancies.

And moving over to author-published text, I can say (or feel I can say), whether or not one believes in Perry-the-Winkle's Troll baking bread on Thursdays and so on, it's nonetheless true that this poem is internal, and "immutably" part of the found texts that Tolkien translated -- immutable in the sense (again in my opinion) that this truth won't change merely, for example, if we read Tolkien musing on paper that he "now" wishes he hadn't included this poem in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

I can't speak for Halfy here, but that's the way I see his brief characterization, compared to . . . all these words Very Happy

For me the first edition Hobbit is canon. I won't go into detail about that matter here, but with respect to how Bilbo "really" obtained the One Ring for instance. . .

. . .  many Tolkien fans are now informed enough, or can become informed enough, to know that Bilbo's less than accurate version of his encounter with Gollum comes with an external "wink" (so to speak), but in any event, once Tolkien himself accepts the first edition as internal, in print, then it can't be unbranded, at least not easily, and again in my opinion, not privately.

If Ursula Le Guin wants to shed new light on Earthsea, I say publish it . . .

. . . and whether a given reader likes her later tales or not, she did Very Happy


Last edited by Elthir on Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:32 am; edited 3 times in total

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Post by Eldy on Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:22 am

Elthir wrote:I hope to have time to respond more to Eldy's recent posts, but for now here's my reason for Halfy's double huzzah.

I'm a mess tonight, but I think I finally edited my word vomit into something halfway acceptable (and condensed it into a single post, which I reposted after deleting both originals). I hoped to have it done before anyone else saw them, but oh well. Razz

Elthir wrote:Obviously I can't put DA into the legendarium and call it canon, but I can adopt it into my personal legendarium and tell folks why I do.

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Post by halfwise on Sat Aug 22, 2020 4:50 pm

It's all very fine to talk about different viewpoints being represented with all the concomitant inconsistencies that mirror real history, but what matters to the reader is whether or not the author felt the world was defined and passes that feeling on to the reader. Are the inconsistencies reflective of historical process, or different conceptions of the author?

In some cases Tolkien makes it clear that the historical process is in play by phrases such as "it is said..." or "many believe..." but in other cases we find that Celebrimbor is or is not related to Feanor, etc. It's the second inconsistency which pulls the reader out of the story for we know the author's intentions have changed. That is canon versus internal historical process, and canon is what the reader craves.

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Post by Elthir on Sat Aug 22, 2020 5:31 pm

Halfy, if you're going to express my opinions better slash more succinctly than me, why don't I just wait longer to post?

Also, something Eldy wrote about BOLT (in the unedited version) is making me think (how dare you sir), and is making me re-think a part of my argument concerning the "canon-like" experience slash reward of the 1977 Silmarillion and the 2007 Children of Hurin . . .

. . . and while I maintain that the reward here is notably great (which is not to say that anyone is arguing otherwise), and that the purpose of these books was not to create an all agreed upon canon, I'm currently musing about something like "engaging with Middle-earth in a general, sweeping, and sometimes even momentary sense"
. . .

. . . or something [cough]. Don't hold me to the quoted part here. It's only draft text. It's still Trotter the Hobbit Wink

And as you can maybe tell, I'm still trying to articulate this much betterly, if possible, and it may take a while, if ever, to get there in goodly enough state to be posted in public.

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Post by Eldy on Sat Aug 22, 2020 7:58 pm

halfwise wrote:It's the second inconsistency which pulls the reader out of the story for we know the author's intentions have changed.  That is canon versus internal historical process, and canon is what the reader craves.

Tolkien's intentions changed whether we like it or not; I don't see any upside in trying to obscure this. I touched on this in the deleted post Elthir refers to, but if I'm reading The Book of Lost Tales, I think it behooves me—and, indeed, makes for a more enjoyable reading experience—to immerse myself in those stories without worrying about it's canonical status. So when I'm reading "The Tale of Tinuviel", Tevildo, prince of cats "really" exists in the world of that story, and there is no Sauron or Thû to speak of. Canon only enters the picture if I'm trying to establish consistency between different tales.

When it comes to the First Age, I often default to following the '77 Silmarillion unless I have reservations about a specific point, but inconsistencies between works exist even when we look only at material published during Tolkien's lifetime. Consider The Hobbit: the Gandalf in my syncretic mental version of Middle-earth is capable of reading Dwarf-runes, and "my" Bilbo doesn't use matches, but that's irrelevant when I'm in the midst of reading the book. The important thing in that moment is enjoying the story, not mining it for raw material to use in constructing a broader picture of Middle-earth.

But when I set the book aside and do make decisions about my "personal legendarium", canon still has nothing to do with it. In the context of fiction, canon means works which are legitimized by a recognized authority, such as the copyright owners of shared universes such as Star Wars. After Tolkien's death, the only possible such authority for Middle-earth was Christopher, but even when working on the '77 Silm he wasn't in the business of trying to iron out every last inconsistency, and he certainly didn't issue rulings on what parts of TH people should or shouldn't take seriously. That's for each individual reader to decide for themselves.

Some people attempt to follow strict principles when assembling a syncretic continuity, but I've found that, for me, it's more enjoyable to take things on a case-by-case basis. There's never a guarantee that other people will agree with you on every specific point, even if you broadly agree on the same principles. Moreover, assembling a personal legendarium is ultimately done for one's own enjoyment, and I think it would be misleading to pretend it's a scholarly endeavor. Having a sandbox version of Middle-earth in my mind that I can explore is fun. By recognizing that it's my own project, not something authoritative, I can throw in stuff like the Blue Wizards being ninja when I feel like it, and no one can stop me. Very Happy

To some extent, I understand people's regret that Tolkien didn't manage to put together a singular, authoritative, internally consistent version of Middle-earth. I used to feel that way myself. But even if Tolkien had "finished" the legendarium, there'd be nothing to stop people from coming up with their own alternate takes on it. And since he didn't, I see even less reason to hold back. As noted above, I think it's in keeping with the way the legendarium was constructed, and it's easy enough to switch back and forth between the freeform approach and "serious" study of Tolkien's works.
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Post by halfwise on Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:50 pm

Ah, so you insist on using 'canon' correctly, to mean something everyone must agree on.   I believe Elthir and I are actually not being careful enough to distinguish personal canon from true canon, as in most cases they will agree.  We are more interested in the concept of picking out an immutable and consistent narrative and using that to increase believability while reading.  Sweep the fact that Tolkien kept changing his mind under the carpet and tell ourselves this is THE STORY.

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Post by Elthir on Sun Aug 23, 2020 5:32 pm

With canon, I don't, and in my opinion even Tolkien "can't" (without further publication anyway) undermine "the truth" of Celebrimbor the Feanorean with Celebrimbor the Telerin Elf, for example.

And internal, or "in-canon" inconsistencies (or seeming discrepancies given the subjective nature of this), are dealt with internally by following Tolkien's lead. And I'd say Tolkien leads this way because he knows the rules (the word "rules" is an imperfect shorthand here, admittedly) --  and knows them whether he steps on one, as with the Finrod case discussed recently in another thread (which I think was an unnecessary alteration slash "crack" in the subcreation), or chooses not to step on one, as with the Beorian ros case.


With my earlier illustration employing the 1977 Silmarilion and the 2007 Children of Hurin, I said that they exist not to be canon, but to provide what I call the "canon-like" experience, echoing Tolkien's purpose if not his ultimate version.

So first of all Eldy, with your reference to BOLT . . .

. . .  how dare you essentially use my illustration against me to make me think Wink

But yes I can see how, in itself, enjoying reading X in the moment can lead one to say canon is needless. But for me there's more here, which I'm still having trouble articulating . . . so for now . . .

The Sad Brief Tale Of Paul Poster  

I recall reading a post (years ago and not in these forums) from an exasperated person (I'm calling him Paul as I can't recall the real name at the moment) who'd all but thrown up his arms in defeat trying to untangle the history of Celeborn and Galadriel . . .  and to me, there was a measure of sadness in his complaint as well.

By Eru, what's the story here?

Paul just wanted to know and rest his mind there. For him the tale had gotten lost in possible tales. I told Paul that canon can turn away his near despair ("near despair" makes for a better story here), and that while he still might find seeming inconsistencies in the tale -- in the tale that Tolkien himself had released to a once and future readership -- nonetheless, I told him to simply read what Tolkien himself had published, and enjoy that far less tangled story. To my mind, "the" story.

And although there's more to Galadriel and Celeborn's history in the posthumously published accounts, we can "know" and read the canon account, and if desired, like me, add to this history by employing the posthumously texts that fit the already published narrative. And while "Paul's" history might diverge from mine due to this, yet we have the canon in common, however we interpret it.

And then I told him to watch Kill Bill simply because it's awesome.

Anyway, that story told, to borrow an example from Eldy: I'd say canon is the tale that contains Bilbo using what Tolkien (as translator) rendered as "matches" -- that's "immutable" however one chooses to interpret what Bilbo is actually doing here. But, again, what does the legendarium have to say about Celebrimbor? Can I no longer "know" his real heritage for certain, simply because Tolkien wrote something different in a private text, something that he never put his ultimate stamp on?

Threads often begin with questions that could have simple, canonical answers. I sometimes wonder what readers are primarily, or hopefully, looking for, when asking so many of their questions (at least certain ones). For me, an internal answer from something Tolkien himself had delivered in print would satisfy and reward -- again, something that Tolkien had made part of the "true" legendarium for once and future readers, even if interpretations (Balrog wings) start to fly (pun intended),

So when Halfy says the reader craves canon, it's natural I think, and likewise natural for Tolkien to consider his own works in print as canon.


Moving on: with Tolkien's passing, in my opinion "authority" no longer existed, and I don't see any evidence that CJRT took up this type of mantle in any case. Even after being talked into the internal presentation of the Silmarillion, with the publication of HOME, Christopher Tolkien essentially tore down the "seeming" authority of his own work . . .

. . . and appears to have wanted to settle the question of authority with respect to the 1977 Silmarillion. Guy Kay was against this if I recall, and my guess is because he was thinking, at least in part, of the very issue we are discussing here. I'm guessing Guy Kay was thinking: don't risk undermining the subcreation!


 . . . but even when working on the '77 Silm he wasn't in the business of trying to iron out every last inconsistency,  . . .

True, but I'd say CJRT "couldn't" iron out certain things without overstepping the bounds he set for himself as editor. His regret with respect to the Fall of Doriath is well enough known, and since that decision arguably undermined his own, general approach -- making his approach itself inconsistent in some measure -- it made him more vulnerable to criticism.

In my opinion it's part of the measure of the man that CJRT knowingly strode out in the arena of criticism. And he must have realized he'd get it from both sides too: that is, some'll say: "but Tolkien didn't write X" while others might ask: why not employ Tolkien's last know idea about X and make it consistent? Or why not take up the mantle of "author" to at least do X or Y?

. . .  and he certainly didn't issue rulings on what parts of TH people should or shouldn't take seriously. That's for each individual reader to decide for themselves.

Agreed. But again I think Halfy's distinction, and certainly mine, rather concerns that The Hobbit is canon, and is "canonized" in print by the author himself (and for me, including the first edition). And then let the interpretations fly!
For instance, why couldn't Gandalf, or at least didn't right away, read the runes on the Gondolin swords? Here too I can tell folks that in 1960 Tolkien imagined that Gandalf couldn't slash didn't read the runes due to black blood, but I can't make the 1960 Hobbit canon . . .

. . .  and I'm guessing Paul would rather have an in-story answer to Gandalf's seeming problem, rather, or primarily rather, than a somewhat convoluted (if interesting and with its own rewards), external history of Gandalf. For myself, I would, although I certainly don't mind both rewards.

By the way I'm beginning to really like this Paul Wink

And with orc blood on the blades, Tolkien works toward an internal answer, for the same reason we crave it.

To some extent, I understand people's regret that Tolkien didn't manage to put together a singular, authoritative, internally consistent version of Middle-earth. I used to feel that way myself. But even if Tolkien had "finished" the legendarium, there'd be nothing to stop people from coming up with their own alternate takes on it.

But in this case wouldn't we be talking interpretation of canon here, rather than canon itself?

And I wouldn't know anything other than Celebrimbor the Feanorean. Or if I knew that the Elf, externally earlier, was a jewel-smith of Gondolin for instance, I think this scenario would be somewhat like Aragorn the Dunadan versus Trotter the Kuduk.

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Post by Eldy on Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:27 am

Elthir wrote:Paul just wanted to know and rest his mind there. For him the tale had gotten lost in possible tales. I told Paul that canon can turn away his near despair ("near despair" makes for a better story here), and that while he still might find seeming inconsistencies in the tale -- in the tale that Tolkien himself had released to a once and future readership -- nonetheless, I told him to simply read what Tolkien himself had published, and enjoy that far less tangled story. To my mind, "the" story.

And although there's more to Galadriel and Celeborn's history in the posthumously published accounts, we can "know" and read the canon account, and if desired, like me, add to this history by employing the posthumously texts that fit the already published narrative. And while "Paul's" history might diverge from mine due to this, yet we have the canon in common, however we interpret it.

It's very possible I'm failing to follow your reasoning (I'm tired and having trouble concentrating), but I'm not sure what the concept of canon adds here. All Tolkien readers have in common the "canon" of what Tolkien published [1] during his life, in the sense that we can all open those books and read the same words in them, but in that sense we also have in common the larger body of posthumously published material. What readers do not all share in common is the same analytical framework for understanding them. I'm broadly sympathetic [2] to your position of prioritizing material published during Tolkien's lifetime, but I've talked to a surprising number of people who came across as genuinely upset that The Hobbit contains oddities like matches which don't harmonize easily with LOTR, if at all, and therefore refused to acknowledge it as a source of information about Middle-earth.

Honestly, I kinda struggle to relate to that experience, but they have just as much right to autonomy as readers as I do. If mentally substituting "The Quest of Erebor" for The Hobbit helps their blood pressure, then far be it from me to stop them. If forgetting the posthumous stuff and only reading about Galadriel in LOTR saves "Paul" from near despair, that's probably the right decision. If halfwise wants to "sweep the fact that Tolkien kept changing his mind under the carpet", more power to him. But for my part, I would simply describe these as examples of readers' individual relationships with the text, rather than invoking the language of canon, with its connotations of authority and legitimacy imposed from on high.

I will second your recommendation to watch Kill Bill, though I hope Inglourious Basterds is also on the program. Razz

Elthir wrote:
To some extent, I understand people's regret that Tolkien didn't manage to put together a singular, authoritative, internally consistent version of Middle-earth. I used to feel that way myself. But even if Tolkien had "finished" the legendarium, there'd be nothing to stop people from coming up with their own alternate takes on it.

But in this case wouldn't we be talking interpretation of canon here, rather than canon itself?

I consider "alternate takes" to be a kind of fan labor; nothing to do with canon nor "scholarly" interpretation.

...I'm not sure this post really adds anything, but I didn't want to fail to acknowledge yours. As always, Elthir, I really enjoy getting to read your thoughts on Lore matters.



[1] In this instance, I'm using the word "canon" in the same sense as "Western canon", rather than the religiously-derived definition I'm otherwise using.
[2] One of the reasons my reply was delayed is that I spent much of the weekend pondering who exactly spoke Sindarin in Númenor (among a number of related questions), ultimately deciding to reject a statement from LOTR Appendix F in favor of something from Unfinished Tales, principle of publication-by-author be damned. Twisted Evil Unfortunately, this meant I got no sleep Saturday night, and I'm still paying the price.
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Post by halfwise on Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:50 am

The thought that you'd lose sleep over who spoke Sindarin in Numenor takes my breath away.

But I do have sympathy with those who consider The Hobbit to not qualify for [{*"canon"*}] because Bilbo used matches.

As his first published book Tolkien had no reason to worry about consistency, hence his aborted attempt to rewrite it. I don't take the first half of the book as a guide to dwarf behavior, though the second half is more consonant with LotR. It was a transitional artifact and should not be judged by the same standards of anything else he wrote except perhaps Farmer Giles of Ham.

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Post by Elthir on Tue Aug 25, 2020 3:37 pm

Due to current time constrains, the following section of this post shall be numbered three (pronounced by myself as threeve sometimes, just for fun).

3) Inglourious Basterds? Yes please.


And for section 4 of this lazy ness, some quick cut and paste!


"Raise the Shire!" said Merry. "Now! Wake all our people! (. . .) But Shire-folk have been so comfortable so long they don't know what to do. They just want a match, though, and they'll go up in fire. The Chief's Men must know that. They'll try to stamp on us and put us out quick. We've only got a very short time.’


And from John Rateliff's History of the Hobbit:

"Chapter VI observes that 'Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet' (DAA.159). Whether this line, and the relatively modern touch of Bilbo’s pocket-matches in Chapter V (DAA.116), would have survived in the 1960 Hobbit, had the Fifth Phase reached so far, is an unanswerable question; . . .

. . . at any rate, they survived unchanged through the third edition changes of 1966. In the real world matches predate fireworks, something that Gandalf has introduced to the Shire. As they are based on similar technology it may be possible that matches were introduced to the shire by Gandalf as well."

Nod

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Post by halfwise on Tue Aug 25, 2020 9:24 pm

Ah yes, fireworks are just matches writ large.

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Post by Elthir on Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:24 pm

Where was I? I still have more to say on the topic, but for now, more on the matter of The Hobbit.


" . . . but I've talked to a surprising number of people who came across as genuinely upset that The Hobbit contains oddities like matches which don't harmonize easily with LOTR, if at all, and therefore refused to acknowledge it as a source of information about Middle-earth."

I'm surprised too, and especially since (in my opinion) Tolkien has cleared the path for readers to accept even the first edition of The Hobbit as canon.

I'd say there are details in The Hobbit that fit under the tent of translation, including similes like the express train in The Lord of the Rings  -- or anything arguably employed by a modern translator or storyteller -- which bits weed out rather easily in my opinion.

Then there's the character of The Hobbit -- with regard to a tale translated for children, it wouldn't be unexpected, let's say, if such a presentation left a somewhat different (from LOTR) general impression of trolls, wizards, dwarves . . . . Etyangoldi singing in trees.

And after weeding out the above examples, what's left that arguably seems too incongruent with The Lord of the Rings? To take one example already raised, if matches must exist in Bilbo's pocket, are they too unbelievable compared to fireworks?

I'm thinking of reading The Hobbit again just to make a list of the "possibly problematic" stuff -- I probably won't for several reasons, lack of time being one of them -- but I can already weed out a number of things, in an internal way, simply by following Tolkien's lead in the first edition Foreword to The Lord of the Rings. And to my mind, The Quest of Erebor helps hammer home a legendarium of different perspectives --  I'd say QOE is not for tossing out The Hobbit as canon, but rather helps stamps that the canon is multi-perspective.


Although presented as a tale for younger readers, nevertheless The Hobbit takes place in Middle-earth, and the story covers some very important historical events too! Not canon? I find this a bogglement. Especially given what I read in the Prologue to The Fellowship of The Ring, where again, even the first edition Hobbit is, I argue, characterized as being based on an authentic, Middle-earthian text . . .

. . . and characterized as such not in some letter that Tolkien never intended to be seen by his readership at large (for instance), but in an author-published account by JRRT under the guise of translator. I italicize this last part as I do not consider the author-published revised Foreword as canon . . .

. . .  as that's "Tolkien-published" obviously, but yet that's also the author talking about his work.

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Post by halfwise on Tue Sep 08, 2020 4:11 pm

But doesn't what he say about his work guide the interpretation of the canon? Or does that get us into the weeds of early versus late letters saying different things?

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Post by Elthir on Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:57 pm

I'm not sure I fully understand the question Halfy, but if it helps my unclarity above, I was referring to Tolkien's original Foreword to The Lord of the Rings, and his Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring -- with respect to my opinion of JRRT clearing/leading the way about The Hobbit as canon.

For example, and for those who might have trouble finding it, Tolkien's original Foreword begins . . .

"This tale, which has grown almost to be a history of the great War of the Ring, is drawn for the most part from the memoirs of the renowned Hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo, as they are preserved in the Red Book of Westmarch. This chief monument to Hobbit-lore is so called because it was compiled, repeatedly copied, and enlarged and handed down in the family of the Fairbairns of Westmarch, descended from that Master Samwise of whom this tale has much to say.

I have supplemented the account of the Red Book, in places, with information derived from the surviving records of Gondor, notably the Book of the Kings; but in general, though I have omitted much, I have in this tale adhered more closely to the actual words and narrative of my original than in the previous selection from the Red Book, The Hobbit. That was drawn from the early chapters, composed originally by Bilbo himself. If 'composed' is a just word. Bilbo was not assiduous, nor an orderly narrator, and his account is involved and discursive, and sometimes confused: faults that still appear in the Red Book, since the copiers were pious and careful, and altered very little.

The tale has been put into its present form in response to the many requests that I have received for further information about the history of the Third Age, and about Hobbits in particular. But since my children and others of their age, who first heard of the finding of the Ring, have grown older with the years, this book speaks more plainly of those darker things which lurked only on the borders of the earlier tale, but which have troubled Middle-earth in all its history. It is, in fact, not a book written for children at all; though many children will, of course, be interested in it, or parts of it, as they still are in the histories and legends of other times (especially in those not specially written for them). ( . . . )"

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Post by Elthir on Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:51 pm

More thoughts on canon ("part one and two" of my earlier response), even though I'm distracted by the Dune trailer.

"To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, storymaking in its primary and most potent mode."

Tolkien, On Fairy Stories

Labour and thought, directed to an end: the story.

For me, canon preserves the art of the tale while at the same time allowing the reader full autonomy, including invoking ideas like the "Death of Author" for example, with respect to interpretation. Tolkien didn't like allegory?
Tolkien thought X about Y?

Nice to know, and I might even agree with Tolkien about X or Y, but in the end we are the readers.

Eldy wrote: All Tolkien readers have in common the "canon" of what Tolkien published [1] during his life, in the sense that we can all open those books and read the same words in them, but in that sense we also have in common the larger body of posthumously published material.

We have the PPM (Posthumously Published Material) of course, but broadly speaking, we weren't supposed to have these papers from the author's perspective. In the introduction to UT Christopher Tolkien explains that not publishing PPM might seem the proper course . . .

" . . . since he himself, peculiarly critical and exacting of his own work, would not have dreamt of allowing even the more completed narratives in this book to appear without much further refinement."

Agreed about Tolkien. And for clarity, this is not in any way a negative comment about the decision to publish PPM, incidentally. I'm glad that Christopher Tolkien published all this material, I'm just trying to characterize these different animals, as I see them.

Anyway, I'd add: as Tolkien is very aware of the art of subcreation, even if we are looking at what seems to be a very finished, polished text, we don't know if the ideas within will make the final cut on a subcreative level as well.

"The desire to revise, improve, and polish was characteristic of Tolkien. His obituary in the Times of London, obviously written by someone who knew him well, says that "his standard of self criticism was high and the mere suggestion of publication usually set hum upon a revision, in the course of which so many new ideas occurred to him that where his friends had hoped for the final text of an old work they actually got the first draft of a new one".  

Christina Scull, The Development of Tolkien's legendarium, Tolkien’s Legendarium, Essays on The History of Middle-earth.

While also noting the "hoped for" final text by readers and admirers, with respect to Tolkien, I suggest that nothing was safe, and a text or idea only gained a measure of safety in print. And again, once in print, even Tolkien must now deal with X differently, given the art of subcreation. In other words he can't "willy nilly" revise without considering work already in print, and he can’t expect to revise a detail already in print without repercussions with respect to the very spell he's trying to achieve.

Let's say I begin a tale. "Calen fastened his tattered, green cloak, and once again vanished into the pathless forest." As a writer I've already limited myself in the first sentence: Calen is wearing a cloak, a tattered cloak, and a green cloak.

I could change the details if the story's not published. And maybe in draft texts the name of the character was Mithron, the cloak was grey, and Mithron vanished into the twilight. Anyway, imagine the story of Calen is published.

Reader autonomy: how tattered is Calen’s cloak? What colour green exactly? Or as the tale moves on, is the choice of colour possibly allegorical? These are arguably "small details" in some sense, but the freedom of interpretation pertains to ideas great and small.

Now let's say that readers find out, for whatever reason, that Calen was really Mithron, and so on (in drafts), or better yet, that Elthir Author later said he "wished" he'd employed Mithron in his grey cloak? Does the story now include Mithron and Calen? Or, Mithron or Calen?

And by story here I mean canon  Wink

As the imagined author here, I'd have to say no, as no matter what I later wished, flattening out these external details as canon undermines the art in an unintended way. Some might say that the "newly inconsistent" version of the story is now "like" certain real world myths or legends that contain inconsistencies. . . well, some could claim so . . . but that's not really an artistic decision. It's not even a true inconsistency, really, at least not to my mind.


Of course there'd be fan-fiction in a world in which Tolkien had published his own legendarium, and no problem, but I wouldn't consider any of it authorial, nor think that it could legitimately replace the tale we all find on the bookshelves, the one stamped with approval by the creator of Middle-earth.


Can we topple the common tale with PPM? Or can we even truly topple the tale in a private sense? That is, while
one can certainly replace author-published text with PPM, and it might make for a more satisfying Middle-earth in someone's imagination . . . is there not some part of the mindset that concedes to the author here?

In other words, if I were to agree with Eldy about the Sindarin of Numenor for example, on one level it might be satisfying, but deep down, for myself, I wouldn't feel it to be "true" compared to APM (Author Published Material) . . . I'd know it would be my fan fiction in an ultimate sense . . . and knowing that also gives me a satisfaction that the fan fiction can't.

In other words, for me anyway, I can never truly dub myself the creator of Middle-earth in the same sense that Tolkien can . . . hence canon, and hence, I've found a Celebrimbor that is un-topple-able . . .

. . . and to me, that much is good Smile

Just my opinions obviously. Now back to Dune!

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Canon - Page 3 Empty Re: Canon

Post by halfwise on Tue Sep 15, 2020 6:03 pm

I've never seen that first introduction! Shocking actually that it basically was confined to the dustbin of history after the revised version came out, for that first introduction says so much about the framing device that later readers never got.

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Canon - Page 3 Empty Re: Canon

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:09 am

{{ Hey is there a chance we might see Elthir outside of the Tolkien half of the forum and in the Dune thread then?! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the upcoming film and on the trailer Elthir. }}

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