So, one of the interesting side-effects of studying an author's works is that the better you know them the more inevitable they look. It's like listening to a classic recording of a favorite song or watching a well-known film: rejected drafts, alternate takes, deleted scenes all show how a work could have been different than it wound up being, yet the path chosen becomes very much the 'right' path in our minds. This is why glimpses into roads not taken are so important.
I was looking at a good example of this during my recent time at Marquette--a document I'd never looked at before, one of the last pieces of LotR manuscript to reach Marquette (Mss-4, Box 2, folder 16, pages 1-2: Early Contents Material). This is essentially a collection of Tables of Contents for LotR put together at various times.* I mentioned in my last post how Tolkien totaled up the page count of each of LotR's six Books to get an idea of just how long the completed book was. His purpose for doing so seems to have been to get a sense of how much room there was for ancillary material. He had already allotted within his 927 page, 89,000 word total a foreword (12 pages) and the Epilogue (5 pages); now on that same sheet he jotted down titles of things he wanted to include in the Appendix:
Of the languages of the Third Age and of Translation The Calendar Chronology of the Tale The Script and the Runes Genealogical Tables Maps 1. General Map of the Westlands 2. The Shire 3. Gondor and Mordor List of Names with notes on their pronunciation and derivation Of the Rings of Power The Fall of Numenor Of Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel Chronology of the Third Age: The Tale of Years The Heirs of Isildur The House of Eorl Of Durin's Race Angerthas Moria Pennas Golodrina Lammas Veleriandzen Dangweth Pengolodh Lay of Luthien Pennas iNgeleid
Most of these pieces made it into the six Appendices in some form and fashion; others had to wait for the 1977 Silmarillion, like the Fall of Numenor (in the form of The Akallabeth) and 'Of the Rings of Power', and a few never quite made it in, like the List of Names,which seems to be ancestral to the promised (but never completed) Index to the first edition.
Of the mooted but omitted works, I take the Pennas Golodrina to mean something like 'The History of the Noldor'), the Lammas Veleriandzen or 'Languages of Beleriand' I assume is either one of the Lhammas texts printed in HME.V.167ff or a projected later development thereof. The Dangweth Pengolodh ultimately made it into the History of Middle-earth, but not by much: this explanation of how the language of immortals can change appears towards the end of the series, THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH (HME.XII.395-402).
The most interesting of all these suggested additions by far, for me, is the idea that Tolkien thought of including the entire LAY OF LUTHIEN within the covers of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I can see the logic of that -- it forms a good matched pair with 'Of Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel' -- but, like the Lammas (the history of the languages spoken on a continent destroyed more than three millennia before), it might be thought of as too much of a good thing, not directly connected with the story of The Ring.
One thing I wish I'd had time to work out is the probable date of these notes. That shd be determinable by looking at the various typescripts of the completed book and comparing the page tallies of each Book to those listed on the accompanying Table of Contents. I suspect it's not long after he completed the typescript (which he loaned to the Lewis Brothers in October & November 1949). Certainly it seems to be when he's thinking of LotR as a standalone book, rather than accompanied by a separate SILMARILLION volume (as was his plan by February 1950); otherwise things like the LAY OF LUTHIEN, the Dangweth, the Fall of Numenor, the Lammas, and esp. the Pennas, wd naturally go in that Silm. volume instead. And I think that once he'd abandoned the idea of publishing THE SILMARILLION alongside LotR he wd have been trying to restrict himself to essentials, rather than casting his net as widely as we see here.Unfortunately I have not yet had time to check Christopher Tolkien's account of the creation of the Appendices (HME.XII), which I suspect will shed a good deal of light on all this.
--John R., still in Dayquil/Nyquil land
current reading: Wm Morris (THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END), Renee Vink (WAGNER & TOLKIEN). current viewing: DOCTOR WHO (the Second Doctor).
*one of the more interesting among them notes the date at which each chapter's events occur, right on the T.o.C. page
So, back from Marquette and almost, almost over my cold, I'm pondering what was probably the most interesting document I saw while there, a two-page sheet on which Tolkien was trying to work out just what shd go in the Appendices (more on this later, in its own post).
Part of this, of course, depended on how much room he had: how long was the work itself? By his own calculations on that sheet,* Tolkien worked it out to roughly 89,000 words.
Now, this is far less than he told Stanley Unwin during the period when he was trying to get Unwin to reject the book so Tolkien cd take it to Milton Waldman instead. In February 1950 Tolkien tells Unwin the newly finished book is 600,000 words (S&H Chronology .358). A month later this tally has risen to a million words (S&H.358), and by April to 'one million, two hundred thousand words' (.361); the hapless Unwin was pricing out an edition of '2,500 copies in two large volumes, each of 1392 pages' (.359).
So we know how Tolkien derived the figure of 89,000 words: the question becomes, how did he come up with the 600 thousand and then 1.2 million?
The 600k/1.2 million is the easier of these two questions to answer. Tolkien had told Naomi Mitchison in mid-December 1949 that he hoped to soon see in print 'two long books' (.354): this is clearly (1) LotR and (2) Silm. Since Tolkien was insisting the works be treated as two volumes of a single work, Unwin seems to have taken him at his word and priced it out accordingly, with each volume being 600,000 words in length.
The harder question, for me, is how Tolkien got from his estimate of 89,000 words, probably arrived at shortly after he completed the typescript (Oct 1949; C&H.352), to a claim just three months later that it was more than six times that length. The answer's does not hinge on the appendices, since both tallies omit them: Tolkien is clear in his Feb. 1950 letter to Unwin that the 600,000 total is the book's length 'even without certain necessary adjuncts' (.358) -- i.e., the appendices material. I hate to say it, but I suspect Tolkien blew up the total in order to discourage Allen & Unwin, not realizing how tenacious they wd be in hopes of working out an acceptable compromise.
Which raises the question: how long is the book, really? If I remember rightly, Lin Carter pegged it at a quarter of a million words, but I have not had time to go back through his little book and confirm or correct my memory on this point. Various internet sites each offer a different total:
So, I'm always pleased to come across a reference to Dunsany's works, especially when it's one that adds to the evidence of just how popular Dunsany was back at the height of his career (from about 1910 to 1920).*
This one appears in the book JILL THE RECKLESS by P. G. Wodehouse (circa 1920). At 17% of the way through comes this little exchange:
[our heroine is dining at the Savoy with a childhood acquaintance with whom she has just been reunited:]
". . . What are you looking at? [asked Jill.] Is something interesting going on behind me?”
He had been looking past her out into the room.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Only there’s a statuesque old lady about two tables back of you who has been staring at you, with intervals for refreshment, for the last five minutes. You seem to fascinate her.”
“An old lady?”
“Yes, with a glare. She looks like Dunsany’s Bird of the Difficult Eye. Count ten and turn carelessly round. There, at that table. Almost behind you.”
“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Jill. [spotting her prospective mother-in-law, Lady Underhill, sitting with her son Sir Derek Underhill MP, Jill’s stuffy fiance.]
The reference, of course, is to "The Bird of the Difficult Eye" in THE LAST BOOK OF WONDER (1916).** The most interesting part of this is how P.G.W. just dropped it in with no explanation, as if he expected anyone reading his book wd know about Dunsany’s story.
current reading: THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END by Wm Morris.
*another one can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (1920)
**one of Dunsany's thieves' tales, a sequel to "The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller" in THE BOOK OF WONDER (1912) and of a kind with "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles" and "The Probable Adventure of Three Literary Men" (both in THE BOOK OF WONDER).
So, there are many contenders for the worst book
ever written on Tolkien. There are biographies that make up events that never
happened. There are source-studies by those who can't tell credible evidence
from casual resemblance. There are people with bees in their bonnets who think
that because something deeply interests them it must have interested Tolkien
too, despite the lack of any evidence thereto. Some are pedants inflicting a
particular jargon on the reader and some have agendas, wanting to recruit
Tolkien to shed a little shared glory on their cause. And there are a few
who are just plain crazy.
This is really not surprising: with so many books
on Tolkien coming out over fifty years and more (by my estimate I have roughly
two hundred on my shelves, and that's not counting the books by Tolkien
himself), there are bound to be a few bad apples. But to be so egregiously bad
as to stand out takes some doing. And stand out E. Michael Jones's TOLKIEN'S
FAILED QUEST (2015) certainly does.
What can you say about a book that faults Tolkien
for not being racist enough?
Jones' book, TOLKIEN'S FAILED EPIC, is an e-book
(really a chapbook) unavailable, so far as I cd tell, in print form. His thesis
is that Tolkien's work fails because while Tolkien borrowed most of his
symbolism and motifs from Wagner, he downplayed and diluted the anti-Semitic
message inherent in his source materials. Or, to put it another way, he
thinks that in writing THE HOBBIT, Tolkien attempted "a corrective
re-write of Wagner's anti-Semitic Ring cycle". But since Jones approves of
that anti-Semitism, he concludes that 'The legacy of Tolkien's
philo-Semitism is unsolvable artistic problems, leading to an ultimately
incoherent book'. Or again, 'Tolkien denied his intellectual debt to
Wagner because familiarity with Wagner exposed the incoherence of his own
It does not help that Jones reads Wagner as purely
a socio-economic tract (e.g., "In Wagner, the Tarnhelm symbolizes
the invisibility of the creditor class in a capitalist society"). That
Wagner was a composer whose given medium was music seems never to have occurred
to him. Jones also expects his reader to already be familiar with, and
agree with, his (somewhat incoherent) economic agenda (mostly he just rattles
on about the gold standard).* Sometimes his prejudices and preconceptions
prevent him from seeing what's actually in the text he's trying to impose his
views upon. Thus he takes the reference in THE HOBBIT where Thorin talks about
the good old days when they didn't need to work as farmers to feed themselves
and instead had more time for mining and metalsmithing and crafting: this, in
Jones' eyes, is a sign that dwarves, and Jews, are lazy. Again, Jones is quite
open in his racism, describing the aftermath of the dwarves' loss of their
homeland in the opening of THE HOBBIT movie as "they had to endure
the biggest insult of all, they had to work for a living, something alien to
the Jewish race". Just in case we don't get his point, he goes on to
quote Shakespeare and Aquinas on the "Jewish aversion to work".
Similarly, the death of the Master of Lake Town is attributed to "The
Aristocracy [being] corrupted by its addiction to Jewish usury and gold".
Jones' book ends on an unexpected and nasty note,
as he abandons Wagner and Tolkien alike for a blast of pure
anti-Semitism: "The solution to the current economic crisis
is the same solution to every other economic crisis of the past 500 years,
namely, the elimination of usury. Once usury is eliminated from the economy,
those who have profited from it -- the Jews and the modern day Cahorsins --
must make restitution. They must return their ill-gotten usurious gains to the
people from whom they stole them. We're talking here about the transfer of
roughly $15 trillion back into the pockets of American citizens".
All in all, perhaps it's not surprising that E.
Michael Jones is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a purveyor
of hate speech.
In the end, it's rather to Tolkien's credit that he
doesn't pass muster from such a dodgy perspective.
It's good to fail sometimes, when the standard
being judged by are so appalling.
current reading: THE GREY MANE OF MORNING
*But then his whole piece is fairly incoherent, with its references to
Fatima, and Franco (a "so-called fascist") and Aquinas and Roy
Campbell and Baron Rothschild and some guy who was head of the Bank of England
in the 1930s and the Prince of Hesse-Cassel, among others.
Here I am at Marquette, having cleared the deck and made all the arrangements to see the manuscripts. I know what I want to do and I have all the materials to do it with. And I'd no sooner set to work then I came down with a cold.
After a day or two of struggling to get the better of it, I opted for the plenty of bedrest + Dayquil/Nyquil routine + Allegra. Things seem to be on the mend; let's hope my second week's research goes better than the first.
So, here's a bit of good news for a change: a total ban on neo-nicotoids, the pesticides strongly suspected of causing 'Colony Collapse Disorder'. It's taken several years to sort out the cause from the effects, but we've finally got a consensus straight out of Rachel Carson. Here's hoping that at some point the U.S. follows suit.