Two days ago, in another thread
, Doug quoted a statement by Christopher Tolkien (recently published in The Guardian
) concerning The Silmarillion
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.
About this statement, Doug writes that:
This contradicts any claim that it is not possible to trace the relationship between the published Silmarillion and its sources using HoMe.
This was of particular interest to me, because in my correspondence with him last month, Christopher Tolkien touched on just this matter; and so I have gotten permission from Christopher to quote from that correspondence to clarify just what Christopher means by this "relationship", and more importantly, what he does not
mean by it.
In response to my query as to whether he had heard of or seen Doug's Arda Reconstructed
(which I described briefly), Christopher explains that Doug had contacted him, via the Estate, in Nov. 2006, and supplied a sample from the (what was then a very much larger) work. After Christopher reviewed the work, the Estate replied to Doug, to which Christopher contributed "the essential paragraph":
The History of Middle-earth does not, and could not, provide all the massive manuscript material necessary to determine how The Silmarillion was constructed in detail — in particular, to determine which alterations were made with manuscript authority and which were not; nor was it intended to indicate the reasons in detail for the selections and changes made.
Allow me to emphasize the words: in detail
and in particular, to determine which alterations were made with manuscript authoriity and which where not
. For it is here that Doug has made his most fundamentally wrong assumption about The History of Middle-earth
and its relation both to the published Silmarillion
and to the manuscripts themselves; and this despite the fact that Christopher specifically informed him of this error back in 2006.
In his correspondence with me, Christopher provided a copy of the report he wrote for the Estate after reviewing Doug's sample in Nov. 2006, in which he expands on this, in terms even more directly bearing on the interview statement which Doug mistakenly takes as affirmation of his approach:
I think that [Mr Kane] has (not unnaturally perhaps) misunderstood in some degree my meaning when I wrote, in the Foreword to The War of the Jewels (p.x), words that he cites in his Foreword: 'I would say that ['The Silmarillion'] can only be defined in terms of its own history; and that history is with this book largely completed. ... It is indeed the only 'completion' possible, because it was always 'in progress'; the published work is not in any way a completion, but a construction devised out of the existing materials. Those materials are now made available ... and with them a criticism of the 'constructed' Silmarillion becomes possible.'
The last thing I had in mind when I wrote the last phrase of this passage was a dogged, grinding, line by line, word by word (extending even to hyphens) comparison of the published text with texts that I published in The History of Middle-earth....
What I meant was, to be sure, that The History of Middle-earth opened the possibility of informed criticism of the published Silmarillion in relation to the original writings of my father: but not to a brick by brick comparison, with little or no indication of its significance, rather to a criticism of the treatment of those writings at large and of their conceptions; whether my aim to produce a 'coherent and internally self-consistent narrative' had been achieved, in so far as it was achieved, at too heavy a cost, and should not have been attempted.
A further, but quite distinct, consideration in this connection lies in the relation of The History of Middle-earth to the original writings. In my Foreword to The Peoples of Middle-earth, pp.ix-x, I referred to the forerunner of the History 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.' This work, which I called The History of the Silmarillion, and which I began after the publication of my 'constructed' text, runs to more than 2600 very closely typed pages, and it does not even touch on the Second and Third Ages. When the possibility arose of publishing at least part of this work, in some form, it was obvious that it would have to be heavily reduced and curtailed, and the part of The History of Middle-earth dealing with the Elder Days is indeed a new presentation of The History of the Silmarillion, and a severe contraction of it, especially in respect of the sheer quantity of variant manuscript material reproduced in full.
Thus, to take as an example the history of the Ainulindalë, I made it clear (Morgoth's Ring p.30) that I cited only the differences of version D from version C (which I printed in full) which had 'significance for the conception'. Mr Kane says, however, that 'unless otherwise indicated, where version C is referenced as the source, there are no differences to that passage cited in version D, and it can be presumed that the passage appeared in the same form in version D'. I have annotated, and send herewith [i.e., to the Estate; these were not copied to me —CFH], several pages of Mr Kane's documentation of differences in the Ainuindale, as published, from the texts given in Morgoth's Ring, to show how The History of Middle-earth does not by any means provide, nor was it intended to do so, all the evidence necessary to determine which alterations were made with some manuscript authority and which were not. But a full investigative analysis of the construction of the published Silmarillion would require examination of the whole body of original manuscripts (a vast task), or at the least the close perusal of my History of the Silmarillion.