Thursday, February 6, 2020

Kay and Christopher

So, I've been delayed getting this post up by three smallish projects I wanted to get off my desk. Don't want to bog down and get distracted again so I'll try to keep this short.

First off, thanks for the many interesting and well-informed Comments.

My own take on the the respective roles of Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay in putting together the 1977 SILMARILLION is simple: I don't know of any evidence that Kay wrote any of it. And I wd be surprised if he did.

I think it far more likely that Kay helped in the sorting and sequencing of the manuscripts, that all-important stage of surveying just what materials existed for each chapter or associated work, after which Christopher wd have decided just which Ms he wd use as his text(s). I think Kay also served as a sounding board, whereby Christopher wd occasionally ask his opinion on specific points. Sometimes Christopher took Kay's advice, and we know of one or two specific examples. But the decisions wd have been entirely Christopher's to make.

In short, I see the Christopher/Kay working relationship as paralleling Christopher's working relationship with Taum Santoski a decade later on the LotR Mss, probably because I was there to see the latter.

By contrast, Kilby's role a decade before CT/GGK 's work was quite different: every other day or so for a month Kilby dropped by Sandfield Road and picked up a typescript of a given chapter of SILM, talking about the preceding chapter with Tolkien*, and repeated the process day by day. So what he saw was the latest version of the component pieces (including associated documents like the ATHRABETH), what I call 'the 1966 SILMARILLION'. Of the three --Kilby, Kay, and Taum -- I think Kilby had the least input and Kay probably the most, with Taum between the two, closer to Kay than Kilby.

And I'm grateful to them all.

--John R.
--current reading: Richard Sala graphic novels (EVIL EYE, THE CHUCKLING WHATSIT)

* though given the interconnectedness of everything in Tolkien, in practice they spent more time talking about the legendarium than that day's specific piece.


Doug Kane said...

Thanks, John. My guess is that the vast majority of the work was Christopher's, particularly with regard to the mind-boggling constructions of passages and even individual sentences that combine different parts of Tolkien's own writing from different sources, primarily but not exclusively the later Annals and the later edits of the Quenta itself (or in the case of the last two chapters, the earlier Quenta). It is that one chapter that has so much original material that I wonder about. But I don't think we'll ever know for sure. The only ones that know for sure either are no longer here to speak, or not interested in doing so.

Bill said...

Unless, that is, CT's personal History of the Silmarillion is ever published.

Doug Kane said...

True, although it is not clear that even then it would be clear. In the Foreward to The Peoples of Middle-earth, Christopher wrote of what became the portions of HoMe related to the Elder Days: "It began indeed as an entirely 'private' study, without thought or purpose of publication: an exhaustive investigation and analysis of all the materials concerned with what came to be called the Elder Days, from the earliest beginnings, omitting no detail of name-form or textual variation. From that original work derives the respect for the precise wording of the texts, and the insistence that no stone (especially stones bearing names) be left unturned, that characterises, perhaps excessively, The History of Middle-earth." The only other public comment that I am aware of that Christopher ever made about his personal History of the Silmarillion was in an interview with the Guardian in May of 2009 when he stated: "After its publication in 1977 I began on what at first was a purely private study, a History of The Silmarillion, an exhaustive investigation and analysis of every page and passage in all my father's writings, leaving no stone unturned; and as this evolved over the years it became, greatly enlarged in scope, The History of Middle-Earth in 12 books, finally completed in 1996. In this the relationship is revealed between the published Silmarillion and the vast mass of writing from which it was derived – but not of course all the reasons and justifications for the way in which the work was carried out." It does not sound from these statements like his personal History of the Silmarillion is a history of the creation of the published work, but rather a detailed examination of all of his father's writings.