Friday, October 15, 2021

Identifying a part of THE SILMARILLION Tolkien showed KIlby

So, I was looking for something else when I came across a passage I'd marked in Clyde Kilby's TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION.  After pointing out various parallels between Tolkien's myths and the Old and New Testaments, Kilby goes on to say

In this connection I should mention a lengthy account 

which Tolkien asked me to read. It was in the form of

 a Job-like conversation on soul and body and the 

possible purpose of God in allowing the Fall so that

 He could manifest His own sovereignty over Satan 

all the more, of Christ's incarnation, the spread of 

His light from one person to another, and the final 

consummation at Christ's return. He said he was 

not certain whether to include this in  The Silmarillion

 or publish it separately.

[Kilby p 61-62]

I assume Kilby is talking about The ATHRABETH here, though the description he gives doesn't seem to match up with that work very well. But we do know that Kilby read the Athrabeth and made careful notes on it. Unless there's another work that's been published somewhere in the wilderland that is HME X-XII and N.o.M.e and I just missed it. 



David Bratman said...

Sorry if I'm missing something, but how do we know, independent of this description which we're not certain is of the Athrabeth or not, that Kilby specifically read and made notes on the Athrabeth? Does he mention it by name elsewhere in his book? Or are they found in the Bodleian papers? The only reference in HoME to Kilby's notes on anything is in regard to "The Wanderings of Hurin."

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David
We know because Kilby loaned his notes to Darrell Martin, who organized and annotated them. Later on Darrell made a photocopy of his material and gave it to Taum Santoski. When Taum died, they passed to me. Their main interest is that it shows that as well as the chapters that went to make up to 1977 Silm. Tolkien also showed Kilby "The Lay of Leithien", "The Wanderings of Hurin", "The Annals of Aman", and something which Kilby called "Conversation Between Finrod and Andreth". The last of these must be the ATHRABETH, despite Kilby's description of it in his notes bearing little similarity to his passage in his book.
--John R.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this, John. Very interesting indeed (including the additional information that you provide in response to David). There is certainly no question that Kilby was referring to the Athrabeth in this passage. Among other things, there is no other portion of Tolkien's legendarium that I am aware of that he even hints at the incarnation. The "Job-like" doesn't really make sense, but the "soul and body" and the "the possible purpose of God in allowing the Fall so that He could manifest His own sovereignty over Satan all the more" are definitely aspects of the Athrabeth commentary.


John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Doug.
I shd have noted that the ANNALS OF BELERIAND were among that material as well (Kilby's notes for it are in the same file as ANNALS OF AMAN).

What makes Kilby's treatment of the ATHRABETH even odder is that Kilby's description in his book, Kilby's notes taken at the time, and the text published by Christopher bear little resemblance to each other. The 1966 notes, for example, make no mention of Satan, or Christ, or the Fall. I suspect Kilby in his book was drawing on memories of his conversation with Tolkien and not on his notes.

In any case, decidedly weird.

--John R.

Unknown said...

Hi John,

First of all I don't know why my comments get listed as "unknown" or "anonymous". This Doug Kane (as probably guess). My assumption (which might be faulty) about that passage in Kilby's book has always been that by "Satan" he was referring to Melkor, and that he was specifically referring to this passage in the commentary to the Athrabeth that hints at Christ's incarnation:

"... since it was unthinkable that Eru would abandon the world to the ultimate triumph and domination of Melkor (which could mean its ruin and reduction to chaos), Eru Himself must at some time come to oppose Melkor. But Eru could not enter wholly into the world and its history, which is, however great, only a finite Drama. He must as Author always remain 'outside' the Drama, even though that Drama depends on His design and His will for its beginning and continuance, in every detail and moment. Finrod therefore thinks that He will, when He comes, have to be both 'outside' and inside; and so he glimpses the possibility of complexity or of distinctions in the nature of Eru, which nonetheless leaves Him 'The One'. (Author's Note 11, p. 345) Since Finrod had already guessed that the redemptive function was originally specially assigned to Men, he probably proceeded to the expectation that 'the coming of Eru', if it took place, would be specially and primarily concerned with Men: that is to an imaginative guess or vision that Eru would come incarnated in human form. This, however, does not appear in the Athrabeth."

But if, as you suggest, Kilby's notes do not reference this passage, then perhaps my assumption has been wrong all along.

Definitely weird, but interesting!

Doug Kane

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Doug K.

Thanks for the specification, which helps put the material in context.

I sometimes have to stop and make myself remember that Kilby had about two months, working almost entirely without context, to read through twenty-eight texts totaling 720 pages.* If nothing else his notes help us re-create an outline of what Tolkien did and didn't consider part of 'The Silmarillion' at that time.

I definitely need to sort out these notes.

--John R.

*plus other works like SWM and THE BOVADIUM FRAGMENTS

John D. Rateliff said...

Ah. Figured it out.

What I have are Kilby's comments he gave to Tolkien. Notes he made for himself on what he was reading aren't in this file.

Took a while for me to work it out, but I'm pretty sure that's what's going on here. Thanks for the helpful comments, all.

--John R.