The History of The Lord of the Rings, book report

[Eric,

Excellent writing. Very good turns of phrase and expressive devices. Let’s do some Tolkien Wednesday, perhaps some excerpts from the original and alternative versions or a bit of the epilogue.]

The History of The Lord of the Rings is a four-volume series that was compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien. It contains a great variety of unpublished material by his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, who is best known as the author of The Lord of the Rings: [comma or semicolon here would be more appropriate than a colon] the abandoned drafts of which comprise the bulk of the series [good subordinate clause structure]. The four books also constitute volumes six through nine of a larger collection, The History of Middle-earth. Their independent titles are The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring, and Sauron Defeated, respectively.

The History of The Lord of the Rings

The History of The Middle Earth

Christopher Tolkien begins The Return of the Shadow by showing a number of different versions of A Long Expected Party, which is the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings. The original drafts of this chapter alone make up almost one third of the book. He then moves on to give drafts of later parts of the book, while providing extensive notes and observations throughout. It is very interesting to examine the enormous changes it [the precise antecedent to this anaphoric reference is not as clear as it could be] underwent in its structure. Many of the characters had very different personas and functions, or didnt even exist. Almost every character underwent a tremendous sequence of changes in name, as well. This first volume ends with only about one sixth of the plot examination completed.

The Treason of Isengard continues in the same fashion as its prequel, though it advances the story a bit more quickly. It also contains an examination of the first map of Middle-earth, drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, and the evolution of the Cirth, a runic alphabet. What I consider to be the highlight of this volume is the presence of the final version of the Eärendillinwë, or Lay of Eärendil. This is a poem that was present in the published version of The Lord of the Rings, but not in its ultimate form. The final version was accidentally left unpublished, but can now be found in The Treason of Isengard. [Very interesting!]

The War of the Ring, focusing almost wholly on completion of the examination of The Lord of the Rings drafts, advances the story to its climax. In Sauron Defeated, the conclusion is finally reached. This volume also includes the unseen Epilogue: a delightful piece that takes place a number of years after the conclusion, in which one of the main protagonists answers questions about his adventure that are put to him by his children. [Samwise? Meriadoc?] Unfortunately, it was not published with The Lord of the Rings due to a number of criticisms, though Tolkien greatly desired its inclusion. It is nonetheless a very enjoyable piece and includes perhaps my favorite excerpt from The History of The Lord of the Rings: “‘What happened to Gimli? said Frodo-lad. I liked him. Please can I have an axe soon dad? Are there any orcs left?’” This final volume also contains an abandoned work known as The Notion Club Papers, which features the minutes of a group of fictional authors who are based on the members of Tolkiens own club, The Inklings. The book concludes with The Drowning of Anadûnê, which is the original draft of Akallabêth: a story found in Tolkiens The Silmarillion, and [together with] an explanation of the Adûnaic language and its structure.

I found The History of The Lord of the Rings to be a very interesting and enjoyable work. It offered much insight into how Tolkien wrote his masterpiece, with supplements from previously unseen works. However, I expect that very few people would share my enthusiasm for it. Most would in fact consider it to be a thing of utmost boredom. Only those who have delight in the most obscure bits of information on Tolkiens legendarium could enjoy a collection of this sort. If you do not study Adûnaic genealogies, Elvish languages, or annals of Arda, you most probably will not be capable of savoring these books. I would only recommend them to inordinate Tolkien enthusiasts.

[It actually sounds utterly fascinating. Could you present some excerpts Wednesday, perhaps from the epilogue? ]

~Eric

P.S.

I seem to remember learning somewhere that it is appropriate to italicize words of a foreign language. Is that correct?

[Yes, exactly. Foreign words or phrases that have not become standard English usage.]

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