New Tolkien book, The Fall of Númenor, to be published tolkiensociety.org 241 points by taubek a year ago
> If you love Tolkien, or if you love the Amazon series, this book is for you.
I thought those two groups were more or less disjoint.
They used a disjunctive operator, so what's your problem?
GP was attempting “humor“, a form of expression not well understood by many readers on this site.
Ironically, the comment you're replying to was also humor that you seem to have missed.
Huh, is the Amazon series already out?
edit it's not. Why would anyone love the series when they haven't seen even a single episode?
>Why would anyone love the series when they haven't seen even a single episode?
Yeah man, it's called PR
They're anticipating that people will discover the book because they're presently longtime fans or future fans via the Amazon series. Bet it explains the timing of the book too. See this invented conversation:
"I'm going to that new city restaurant next week." "I really liked it. Actually, I got a cookbook by that chef. If you love the restaurant, this book is for you."
That the two groups apparently lack overlap would support the press release mentioning each separately: Whether you're a hippy environmentalist or conservative/independent rancher, solar panels are for you!
> Bet it explains the timing of the book too
I think the submission article is pretty obvious about that the timing is on purpose:
> The book, due out in hardback and deluxe on 10th November 2022, is conveniently timed to coincide with Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power which is being released this September, and which is also set in the Second Age.
> the submission article is pretty obvious about that the timing is on purpose
The article doesn’t actually make that claim. “Conveniently timed” means it’s the author’s own opinion. Which is almost certainly just as good as yours or mine is.
It would be very different if the article claimed the book was developed alongside the series or anything like that.
>They're anticipating that people will discover the book because they're presently longtime fans or future fans via the Amazon series. Bet it explains the timing of the book too.
Wonder what people think after never reading The Hobbit until after watching the 6+ hours of movies then circle back to the book?
Because giving current trends they will hate it after watching.
I've already seen quite a lot
Yeah, the trailer wasn't extremely promising. But who knows -- I think it's entirely possible to mix contemporary trendy politics without hurting the quality of the actual piece. It's more a question of overall quality than the actual politics.
The lack of original source material is probably a riskier problem, and could lead into a GoT -like mess.
I'm trying to keep an open mind. I've no problem per se with Middle Earth including plenty of people of colour, it's right there in the source material. Numenor was quite far south, and the nearest places to it on the continent are Umbar and the far south. We know they had lots of contact and colonies there for thousands of years, and it would actually be kind of weird if there weren't southerners or people with some southern descent turning up in Numenor. Plenty of justification for people of colour to play a huge role in any story of or about Numenor, or any group that comes from there.
I'm not sure about the Elves and Dwarves, but sure, if humans from the south are of colour, why not Elves and Dwarves from down south too? It all depends how it's handled. Game of Thrones did a fairly good job on this, with characters from different parts of the world often looking like it, aside from some issues with casting extras (pasty looking Irish Dothraki for example).
As for warrior Galadriel, well, she was in a war. She personally walked all the way from the Undying Lands through the icy wastes of the North with her people, who suffered huge losses. That journey was no joke, and I have no problem believing she fought alongside them, and was entirely capable of doing so.
Having said that the fake fan engagement stuff was horrifyingly cringey. We'll just have to see.
Apparently the producers are saying there will be female orcs too: https://www.ign.com/articles/rings-of-power-female-orcs
It really seems like the show runners are focused on the story here. /s
Tolkien said in one letter that there are female orcs. That some would become warriors is perhaps a bit of a leap.
While I'm certainly not a GoT hater, trendy as that may be, I acknowledge that--for whatever reason--the storyline became weaker once it didn't have GRRM source to draw from.
That said, there is no shortage of excellent films that were adapted from mediocre source material or diverged significantly from it. [ADDED: And, of course, no shortage of films based on original screenplays.]
People don't hate GoT because it's trendy, they hate it because it went from something of high quality to something of low quality as the seasons progressed.
why either love or hate it? I love S1-5. Not sure about 6 or 7 but I disliked 8 for sure. Its not like S3 or S4 or S5 was bad. Then I'd have quit earlier already. I can still recommend S1-S5 at the very least.
People hate GoT because how quick it went from 100 to 0. I doubt they put more than one day in writing the entire S8, that was a dumpster fire of writing.
It hasn't been done well lately. I nearly cringed out of my skin when Peacemaker and Resident Alien both made awkward anti-anti-masker speeches on the same week and I happened to watch them back to back.
I think contemporary trendy politics is cancer so I'm kinda biased here. But even if I concede that you are right and you can mix that in without hurting the quality, I can say confidently that you can't do that with Tolkien. He was a deeply religious Catholic and his world view and "contemporary trendy politics" just don't mix.
Sorry, I'm confused.
Does this new book incorporate 'trendy politics'? If someone knows, please tell.
If it does not, this is one of the most exciting bits of news I have ever heard. If so, then the opposite is the case.
I think parent was writing about the Amazon series.
> But who knows -- I think it's entirely possible to mix contemporary trendy politics without hurting the quality of the actual piece.
I feel like The Boys Season 3 is a stark counterpoint to this opinion. I didn't mind the left leaning stuff in the first 2 seasons because it wasn't so overtly in your face, but season 3 just had to inject it in literally every aspect of the show. I've never literally had a bad taste in my mouth after watching a show, but I promptly cancelled my prime membership with a bad taste in my mouth after watching the first couple episodes of this season.
> I didn't mind the left leaning stuff in the first 2 seasons because it wasn't so overtly in your face
Violent, nationalistic, performatively Christian, law-and-order, hero-worshipping big-man conservatism as a front for both fascism and corporate profiteering is pervasive from the beginning.
I’m not sure how it could be more in your face. The Boys doesn't do subtlety.
> Violent, nationalistic, performatively Christian, law-and-order, hero-worshipping big-man conservatism as a front for both fascism and corporate profiteering is pervasive from the beginning.
Yea, and this stuff is pervasive in any big series or movie that's come out in the past 5 years that's not aimed at a children's audience. Maybe it's more telling that I can look past all that stuff because of how pervasive it is in every other aspect of our culture.
And additionally, as a conservative I agree with a lot of these points, and I think it's good to be reminded of the hypocrisy that many conservatives live out. In my opinion, the first two seasons had a pretty equal underpining of pointing out the hypocrisy of the left as well which is why I enjoyed them.
Season 3 did not feel balanced. Sure they still pointed out the hypocrisy of some of the left's values, but it feels to me like they've taken a much more unbalanced approach with this latest season.
I'm not saying it would be probable, just that it is possible.
For example, the first two Alien movies had strong female characters (perhaps a statement in 70s and 80s) that made the movie better.
> I didn't mind the left leaning stuff in the first 2 seasons because it wasn't so overtly in your face.
I don't get this. The villain of season 2 was literally a Nazi named "Stormfront" who riled up a cult-like following on social media. How much more in your face could it possibly get? Season 3 feels like a natural continuation of that.
In fact, one could argue that the whole series is more cynical than political. Season 3 is poking a stick at ostensibly "woke" corporations with its portrayal of Vought as a shallow and opportunistic supporter of progressive causes.
The problem is that the new season includes current events. I don’t care that the villain is a Nazi, but making a caricature of a present day political opponent and then beating them up on screen goes too far. I’m so sick of hearing about BLM.
> The villain of season 2 was literally a Nazi named "Stormfront" who riled up a cult-like following on social media.
Yes... and? I don't know you personally, but if you truly believe that the vast majority of conservatives are closet Nazis, may I suggest you actually talk to some real people? Not fringe people on Reddit or some other social media site, but real life people that are conservatives. Conservatives of whom you would be very hard pressed to find someone who does not denounce all forms of Naziism and communism in general?
"If A, then B."
This statement does not claim that A is true.
Basic logics, guys.
Well if A is absurd and generally considered impossible, then it's still a strange thing to say in this context, even if it would be a valid statement in formal logic.
Mind you, A was "If you love Tolkien, or if you love the Amazon series,"
That's not "absurd". And, given time, it's not "generally considered impossible" either, once the series is out and people have watched it.
Maybe that's the point, there are two kinds of people in the world: People who love Tolkien and people who love Amazon Tolkien.
His point though was that they don't like the same things. And this book is pure Tolkien, so it's for the first group.
Even there I'd argue; I loved LotR and the Hobbit, but I couldn't get into any of the others; they don't flow as well as those, they come across as disjointed, etc. Maybe if you're more into the world building than the books, and if you don't mind a more "biblical" narrative.
I now just found out thats a thing..
Quoted sentence is doubly weird: How could anyone love it or otherwise? It hasnt even been released yet
They don’t want to revise that text once the series is out.
Hiring woke academics (and I use that term very loosely) for the media junket to shore up the script was an obvious sign of concern
Skips this book but do read The Last Ringbearer, a well-written 1999 fantasy fan-fiction book:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer
The Onion did a series of transcripts of "unused audio commentary" for the Lord of the Rings DVDs narrated by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. They sounds similar to what you describe, and are a great parody of both the story and the narrators:
McSweeney's, not The Onion
I found the pdf about 10 years ago after hearing about it, and really enjoyed it.
It's nothing in tone or style like Tolkein, so it won't ruin your memories of the LOR books. Only about the first two chapters overlap with the end of the Tolkein books.
It's basically a story told from the point of view of an orc, so naturally the elves and the wizards are the bad guys.
> It's basically a story told from the point of view of an orc, so naturally the elves and the wizards are the bad guys.
Actually, I wonder if that "naturally" part really follows.
Is it really true that every human who does evil thinks he's doing good?
Even if so, should we expect orcs to be wired that same way?
> Is it really true that every human who does evil thinks he's doing good?
Either they do and truly believe in their self-righteousness, or they... simply don't care. I think this last category is very prevalent everywhere. I don't believe that e.g. a manager who exploits and sacks their staff actually thinks they're doing the right thing, but that they simply don't care about their staff. They get rewarded for saving money, too, so they care more about personal gains than that of those they preside over.
This is intriguing, especially in light of the war in Ukraine - where the Russian invaders are being referred to as 'orcs'.
And it's happening in reverse too, with Ukrainians being labeled as 'elves': https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-61518209?ns_mchan...
There's even a map! https://twitter.com/visegrad24/status/1500635045735895042
> As for the Russians: they've been labelling Ukrainians “elves” - another Tolkien allusion - in the belief that those fictional beings embody weakness
Looks like somebody didn't do the reading.
Also FYI you can remove everything in the URL starting with the "?" and it will point to the same place.
Tried that, doesn't work with BBC's 'Live Reporting' feed.
It may well be a well written book, and I will check it out, but it obviously is also written by a guy who is still butt-hurt by the fall of the USSR...
The premise is much more interesting than the quality of writing. It was rather heavy to read.
Tolkien's writing is on a completely different level.
The book stands on its feet. Why would private butt-hurtedness (is that even a word?) of an author matter? Wasn't Tolkien also butt-hurt by the decline of the British Empire? At least both authors have something in common.
I still find The Last Ringbearer more optimistic than LotR, where even the victory against the biggest evil ever seems just like an ephemeral moment of partial restoration in a long period of inevitable decline of the human race.
The characters in this book are alive, while in LotR there's much more character in mountains than in humans.
> Wasn't Tolkien also butt-hurt by the decline of the British Empire?
In typical Russian apologist style (as evident by your comments), you resort to whataboutism, even without actually checking your accusations. Tolkien was conservative, but he was an anti-imperialist.
"I love England not Great Britain and certainly not the British Commonwealth" – Letter 53 – December 1943
"I know nothing about British or American imperialism in the Far East that does not fill me with regret and disgust.” – Letter 100 – May 1945
> In typical Russian apologist style (as evident by your comments),
I hope you enjoyed reading my other comments, though I don't see how my expressed view on other topics have any relevance to the comment you are replying to.
> you resort to whataboutism,
Hey, it was not me who brought up author's private view on politics and past. And once it was there, I just pointed out that both authors privately share a kind of longing for the glorious past, which is even more evident in LotR and Hobbit than in The Last Ringbearer.
> even without actually checking your accusations.
I didn't accuse anyone of doing anything. I just expressed the prevalent sentiment of his books, and I think what he wrote there is more relevant than what he said in interview or private letters.
This might be blasphemous among LOTR fans, but I wish the Tolkien family would work with other authors to complete these stories. You can still publish all the drafts and notes you want, but I would love to see them written in a more digestible format. There is so much potential in all these stories.
As a Tolkien fan I have absolutely zero interest in any of these, no matter how well they could be written (and given what is happening with Amazon's The Rings of Power, that's not a given).
A fan of Tolkien's original stories is exactly that, not a fan of any story written by a random author with the same characters in it. There are plenty of fantasy novels that don't enjoy the same level of success for that reason.
There is no lack of elfves, dwarves, wizards, and dragons. What is lacking is Tolkien's talent.
Derivative works don't change the originals. They are still there. Obviously, if you're a purist, then don't consume any of the "newer" material.
Is the fear that a derivative would some how make the original less successful? or fail itself or reveal some character attributes that you don't like?
Don't people argue that basically all Star Wars movies and recuts post-1983 have basically just served to dilute the brand? I guess it's a bit more murky when you start arguing about the whole expanded universe of novels, video games, TV shows, theme park attractions, and whatever else.
But it does feel different when you invite new creators to step up to the plate and create new chapters in a story and then explicitly elevate those new chapters to the same level of canon as the original. This could even be said to apply to Lucas and the prequel trilogy, since Lucas did not direct Empire or Jedi, so the prequels were being made essentially be a completely different team than the originals (other than him).
All that to say— this could be done, but it would be really important to manage the branding of it. It's not an "LOTR sequel", it's "LOTR Legends — new stories set in Tolkien's beloved world", with the clear implication that canon 0 is LOTR, canon 1 is the Christopher Tolkien-edited works like the Silmarillion, and the "Legends" are canon 2. Anything not associated with the estate is canon 3, and the movies, video games, and TV show are not canon at all.
> Don't people argue that basically all Star Wars movies and recuts post-1983 have basically just served to dilute the brand?
Some of the expanded universe Star Wars is quite good. I personally loved the KOTOR game and the Yuzhaan Vong books while hating all the Disney movies. I suppose the same argument applies to the Silmarillion since it was heavily edited by Tolkien's son.
> Derivative works don't change the originals.
Often repeated as a mantra, but do they actually not?
Classic example: The plummeting of the rewatchability of Game of Thrones Seasons 1-4. Also, Star Wars.
They don't have to, it depends on the reader/viewer. Stephen King says pretty much the same about adaptations of his own work...however badly they've butchered "The Stand" on TV, it hasn't changed the original book.
I feel like this about a lot of derived works - there's tons of novels derived from video games as well, for example. But they all feel like fanfiction.
That said, there was a fantasy series I've read part of where the author himself started writing tons of spinoffs and whatnot; almost like writing fanfiction of their own works.
>There is so much potential in all these stories
potential for what? Making more money? I'm glad Tolkien's son actually had the decency to not squeeze his father's legacy for every penny. Within months of him stepping down at age 93 whoever is in charge of it now signed the contract with Amazon
Did he not?
After suffering through the Hobbit movies, I would completely disagree.
Adding salt to the injury, these movies destroyed the story in the book that Tolkien apparently wrote specially for his children. Talk about taking care of a legacy.
I guess it was difficult to resist the temptation, with so much money involved. But I don't see any other justification for those 3 movies apart from penny squeezing
Christopher Tolkien had no say in the Hobbit films (or any other prior films). JRRT himself sold the rights to film adaptions of his works to United Artists a few years before his death. The GP is correct that the Tolkien Estate sold the rights for the TV show to Amazon literally months after Christopher retired as director of the Estate... granted planning and negotiations had probably been ongoing for some time, but Christopher would've been about 93 at the time so presumably he was not deeply involved by that point.
They were just a bad adaptation and I quit partway through. But there are lots of bad adaptations. Dune was pretty ill-served until the most recent. It happens. You watch or not and move on. As well as adaptations that are a lot better than the original work.
> Making more money?
Honestly, what would it hurt? They can continue to publish the more raw works, you're not losing anything. I didn't finish the Hobbit films and I'm still alive.
I've been shot down by my friends numerous time for saying exactly the same thing.
Of course, as another commenter pointed out there's the Dune book which is an example of how not to do that. But, this is why it only works if the author that's chosen is a good writer and not a complete hack like Kevin J. Anderson who has never produced a single decent book (even outside the dune universe)
I agree with your side. Here’s my take. For some people, there’s a line you don’t cross. However, if the line is going to be crossed anyway, why not cross it in the best way possible? I’m inclined to believe that if done well, even those against it being done will end up finding appreciation for the next works.
This whole situation happened with Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series. It was considered a mess by fans but was a critical success.
Either way at least we got an ending. Thing is- the books had been meandering for a while, and it's quite possible Jordan would have whiffed at the end, but we will never know.
With Tolkien it's just been a shallow money grab since The Hobbit trilogy made off a super short book and after the Amazon series stuff I'm over it anyway.
It feels like at this point they should have people write universe books like Forgotten Realms or something. New books by new authors in the Tolkienverse.
ASOIAF will probably never be finished, and I'm OK with that.
I used to hate not getting to see how a story ends but after so many books/shows/series/movies always ending on cliffhangers to never be completed, I'm just over it.
Seems even storytellers die heroes or live long enough to become villains ;)
> Wheel of Time ... was considered a mess by fans but was a critical success.
Can you go into why it was considered a mess? I'm a relatively recent finisher of the series so I can't speak to the contemporary reaction of the fanbase, but my impression has been that the current community is, at a minimum, satisfied with Sanderson's work. There are several things that people complain frequently about (and that I agree with) like Mat's character development and the Androl arc. Not to mention the lost possibility of follow-on series after A Memory of Light! That doesn't mean people think it's a mess, though.
It's just what I remember from release. We'd waited so long. I haven't even read it since. Checked reviews and it's sitting at 4.5. I will have to reread the series anyways, maybe it was just some of us never being satisfied, I know I've been that guy before.
I personally was glad for the ending. My main critique was with the series as a whole meandering wildly. But was still something I loved.
I believe they had lots of notes and a roadmap from Jordan as well, but I could be mis-remembering.
One weird series that had an ending that wasn't supposed to was the Gunslinger series. I think King went like 20 years between books before ending it. I really remember it because he had a note when you got to the ending saying he didn't feel the story should have an ending, and he recommended stopping there, but for those who needed an ending he provided one to give some closure.
I thought that was so cool, and read it, but prefer to think Roland is still out there somewhere chasing some new Walter, so rather than preferring an ending that time I preferred open-ended, which almost never happens.
In spite of something I wrote elsewhere--basically that sometimes it's just time to move on--I tend to agree. While it may be blasphemous to say, much as I love it, LoTR is not without its flaws--especially the whole structure of The Return of the King. Tolkien was a world building (and linguistic) genius but LoTR hasx its flaws.
There's few good examples of reusing beloved franchise actually going well, numbers are against the practice. For every good work like the last LOTR trilogy, you have a lot of "I've never watched previous Star Trek to keep my vision untainted" soulless, trend-pandering iterations.
Have you read the Kevin Anderson/Brian Herbert Dune books? Anderson's writing style is much more digestible than the source material, but I don't think it really added anything to the Dune universe.
The problem is that I have never seen Kevin Anderson write a single decent book even outside of Dune. He even managed the feat of writing the worst Star Wars books which, given how mediocre the average Star Wars novel is, is no mean feat.
> I don't think it really added anything to the Dune universe
I actually feel that some of the cannon changes detracted from the dune universe, which is even worse than not adding anything to it.
I got half-way through the first and then abandoned it in disgust.
Unfortunately, it seems like Tolkien's family is more interesting in the own financials than in keeping the Tolkien universe alive.
For example, The Last Ringbearer  is a fan fiction book that plays in a Tolkien universe after the fall of Mordor. IMHO, it's more intriguing than some Tolkien works published by his son, but the family decided to prevent it from being published and distributed in most legislations.
Where do you draw the line between the Tolkiens blessing second-party works as being the "official lore" vs leaving them on the level of self-published internet fan fiction? Of which there is absolutely no shortage?
Is it just a quality bar? Some sense of how much it "fits" with the existing world while still expanding on it in meaningful and plausible ways?
I get that Star Wars novels are a template here, but that's not exactly a flattering comparison. Other cases like Robert Jordan and Robert Ludlum seem also to be a bit mixed.
Be careful of what you wish for. Sheltered in the money tree that is Tolkien's legacy, writers could take more liberties that they wouldn't risk with their own work. They would run it to the ground as long as there's easy money to be made, then reboot it 10 years later.
> This might be blasphemous among LOTR fans, but I wish the Tolkien family would work with other authors to complete these stories.
They already have! The Silmarillion was a collaboration between Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay.
The narrative returns have been rapidly diminishing since The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. THoME is a real slog after books 1-3.
However, they will likely never be improved upon: anyone possessing the wit and knowledge to retell these stories for a discerning modern audience likely has their own legendarium to develop.
> THoME is a real slog after books 1-3.
The History of Middle-Earth was never really meant to be read cover to cover. It's a collection of the elder Tolkien's unpublished works and rough drafts, some of which was later adapted into The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and other more recent books.
I agree, and I think the format consequently sits in an uncomfortable liminal space between academic and popular, one that compromises too much and satisfies neither. Perhaps it is telling that my favourite piece of the whole collection is not even by Tolkien: The Lays of Beleriand includes a wry commentary by C.S.Lewis, a surprise for myself since I do not generally enjoy his work.
I agree. Considering how WoT fans feel about Brando Sando, this can clearly work.
Remembering a piece about the Wheel of Time and how Jordan prepared the books beforehand. He wrote that he had the whole storyline already before him. He only needed to fill the gaps so to speak. He didn’t bring much of his own style in as he claims. What I think is great about the last books not completely written by Jordan is that you don‘t feel it when reading all of them back to back. I wonder if the source material from Tolkien is in a Format which allows to do the same. And also finding an Arthur that is willing to write in a specific style. But I would be happy enough if more parts of the world would be published in a normal novel like form. But then that was also the point of Tolkien to produce Folklore. So in essence he should be fine if another author retells his stories with a slight different way or take.
> you don‘t feel it when reading all of them back to back
Having just finished reading the Wheel of Time books for the first time about a week ago, I disagree with this statement. To me, the difference was stark - after going through so many of Jordan's books, you can clearly see a subtle but distinct writing style for each of the main POV characters. After the transition, the characters stay (mostly) the same but the writing style distinctions between them disappear; the worst offender being Aviendha's POV chapters (so! many! exclamation! marks!).
Sanderson also made a few mistakes in writing scenes involving the Aiel that contradicted lore laid down earlier in the series that really stuck out to me.
That's not to say Sanderson did a bad job, not at all. I really enjoyed the series, and I think Sanderson does a much better job at portraying emotional characters than Jordan did, which was crucial for the ending having the quality and impact that it did. they're both quality builders and writers, and both excel in different areas.
To me, though, it was if I had started watching something animated in the style of Arcane, and suddenly it switched to Moana. Both fantastically animated and detailed, but the detail budget is spent in different places.
Hmm I didn’t feel it like this. Mainly because the writing style of the series had changed slightly already before. I remember vividly that the fist book had great fascination for fabrics and color:). I had a pretty good understanding about the fashion style in the world. Same as Tolkien with food and Martin‘s excessive name dropping of character names. Also because I actually had no idea that the series was finished by someone else. I didn’t pay much attention when buying the digital versions. I will read a little bit closer the next time I read the series again. Problem at the moment for me is the ugly taste that the Amazon series left with their take on wheel of time. I lowered my expectations to a bare minimum for the rings of power series.
We already have the author's works as well as Christopher's best efforts to pull together many of the other stories. At this point I'm of the opinion that having new authors work on these stories wouldn't be "completing" so much as "milking".
What if computers, trained on Tolkien corpus, were put to the task…
I really believe that someday (not in my lifetime) we will have a perfect AI that gives us new stories that finish the works of Tolkien, Dune, The Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones, in a style of the original author and with an equal level of inspiration.
Sure they won't be cannon, but it will be a fun world to live in when a Master A.I. can rewrite and unfuck Star Wars.
Tolkien's universe is a quite depressing one. It's a series of stable periods interspersed with cataclysmic events that permanently lower the quality of life. All the great things in-universe come from a previous age and it's essentially unheard of that any contemporary art surpasses what the ancients could do.
Tolkien was a British person in the early 20th century so the cultural context in which he lived was one of an empire in decline, 2 world wars, and as the series was written a Europe and UK in relative ruins. Romanticism about the power, influence, justice, and luxury of the empire was a driving propaganda technique during the wars.
If you look at Brexit, you will find that romanticism about the power, influence, justice, and luxury of the empire is still a driving propaganda technique...
Even _before the Empire_, nostalgia for a fictional past was a huge thing in England; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_England.
That is widely said, but I know of no serious social scientific finding that nostalgia for empire played any part in Brexit vote share.
Ok, maybe not nostalgia for the Empire specifically, but nostalgia for the "good old times", when the EU didn't meddle in the UK's business and force it to e.g. display the hated metric measurements besides the beloved Imperial ones (ha! there you have the Empire again!).
And to quote some sources: according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_the_vote_in_favour_o...):
> Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was "the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK". ("in the UK." meaning: "by the UK." logically implying: "on behalf of 66 million UK citizens not 508 million EU residents.")
Preference for more-local government is hardly the same as nostalgia for former times.
And really the history of Europe more broadly. If you think Britain had it bad look at the history of just about any of the small eastern and central European countries in particular. I was in some history museum in Budapest, and it's account was basically we got invaded by so and so, and then laid siege to by another so and so, things were pretty good for 50 years, and then a third so and so invaded, etc.
A bit of a rabbit hole led me to this, a commentary by tolkien on his thoughts after drafting several pages of a book set about 100 years after the end of LoTR and Aragorn's death
> I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men, it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a 'thriller' about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing
I find that writing process fascinating. Begin writing about your world a few generations later. Find you've added some satanists and other assholes to it. Get upset because the world sucks now. Stop writing the story because it wouldn't be a good one to tell.
It would seem he didn't control his own sense of canon and direction. He just had a genuine vision of it all and it was either going to be exactly that or nothing at all.
I am fascinated by Tolkien's writing process and mind as well. I recently read the article about "Bamfurlong", its a place in the books that didn't really need a name. Nothing about the name influences the story at all, the name didn't even appear in the first edition.
But he HAD to go back and add that name in later editions because this place and its history was SOOO real to him.
For every story we got from him, he must have built a hundred more in his imagination of that place.
> Bamfurlong was a farm in the boggy region of the Marish in the eastern Shire. It was the home of Farmer Maggot
> Tolkien says that the name "Maggot" was a Hobbitish name whose meaning has been lost in history. Maggot should not be understood as the English word maggot or larva. The similarity is coincidental.
Another frankly incomprehensible example.
"This guy's name was Maggot. Readers will probably mistakenly assume that's an artistic choice, but unfortunately that's his name and I, as the author, have no agency to change that"
It's an imagined mythology for rural England, so follows the same historical outline. For most of the last many thousands of years civilisation was all happening far away (Greece, Rome). Bits of those civilisations made their way here but our civilisation and high culture is based on the leavings from distant past glories. All the action long ago was far away from this green and pleasant land, but now is our time to step up and take responsibility for history.
It’s also kind of an explanation for why England has no magic left. As you move forward in time the magical races and beasts all slowly die out. In the Hobbit the last dragon dies. In LOTR we see the elves leaving Middle Earth, the last march of the Ents, the end of the rings of power, the end of the wizards, the killing of a Balrog.. setting up the age of Men. And as you go further back in time it gets even more magical and outlandish.
Claiming a lineage back to impressive forbears is a pretty common thing - didn't the Roman's claim ancestry back to Troy, even the Scots claimed ancestry back to the Scythians...
Yep, and that includes Britain, which some mythologies claim was also founded by a Trojan, Brutus of Troy, descended from Aeneas himself.
I guess everyone's descended from Aeneas nowadays.
Not to mention the whole British Israelite thing—where there is the claim that the Brits are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. Then there's the hymn Jerusalem which speculates that Jesus himself came to Britain.
The myths link Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, King Arthur, Holy Grail, Glastonbury and lots of other things:
Meanwhile here in Scotland we've just got a rock that someone used as a pillow - but we do have a cool footprint and a nice island with "its cargo of mouldering kings".
Billions of years of conflict and selection lead to you. Anyone alive today is the product of a crazy amount of competition over time.
That is a pretty impressive lineage, no matter who you are. I know why people see a direct line to this or that ancient tyrant as special, but it is a ridiculously fine distinction, comparatively.
"Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead."
Edit: I was going to say that the name of the book isn't referencing that kind of crypto, but then I remembered that it actually is!
Is your username a cryptonomicon reference too?
Well spotted :-)
My daughter once said she wasn't sure if she wanted to have kids. I told her she's the end result of an unbroken chain of 4 billion years of successful reproduction, with zero failures, and it would be a shame to break it now. No pressure.
Generally speaking, that chain depended on each generation producing more than one offspring to avoid the risk you’ve described.
It's also true of the ants you step on when you walk outside. It isn't actually worth celebrating.
Most of those ants are workers, so already evolutionary dead-ends!
It matters to them?
World War 1 had a massive effect on him. My grandfather who served in WWI aged 16 or 17. He saw things he couldn't unsee, and wasn't what you would ever call "cheerful". That generation had a very different world view.
Tolkien write about Sam:
"My ‘Sam Gamgee’ is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself."
Hmm, all of the old powerful things come from the past. Good and bad. Sauron for example. But if the "era of men" has come, as the elves say, perhaps the Middle Earth dwellers are doing something ok?
I suppose the Middle Earth in Frodo's times are a reflection of early medieval times. And to some extent that's how it was. Collapse of Western Roman empire was a time of terrible economic downturn.
The Western empire ended with a whisper, not a bang. The estate system was already firmly in place, Diocletian's reforms were the foundation of feudalism, "nations on the march" (Franks, Vandals, Goths) had long ago settled in the empire en-masse.
The fall of the West was changing the name on the door. Theodoric could have been a western emperor for all intents and purposes. Even the institutions remained pretty much unchanged.
The only real distress was that the loss of Northern Africa as the breadbasket for Rome meant that Rome itself continued to shrink/decline (a process which had been underway for a long time by the end), and that was only because of the lack of a grain dole, which had been in place for 500ish years anyway, because even the late Republic had significant problems with wealth inequality.
If you want to talk about economic downturns, currency devaluation after mining all of the silver in Iberia, the crisis of third century, independent administration of the East and concentration of the wealth of Egypt/Syria into Constantinople, and the amount of wealth which went into keeping up auxillia/mercenaries are better targets, and those all long predate the fall of the west.
This is only true for mid/southern Gaul, Iberia, and Rome, and to a lesser extent to the North of Gaul.
To Briton the Western Roman empire fell hard. There was a marked collapse of urban life, a shut down to bulk trade networks which were relied on for a great amount of the economic activity. Students were no longer sent to "Rome" (or the other metropolitan areas) for education. And worst of all the Roman Military left.
This led to a complete collapse of the system, people went back to sustenance living with the drop in living quality that this, suffered raids from the Picts, Irish and Germanic people's. There was a huge power vacuum that led to local 'warlords' rising in power and a politically fractured island. This also led to the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
It is from the perspective of (comparatively) modern scholars that we get the story of the "Collapse of the Roman Empire" because from the perspective of the British isles is was a collapse.
This aligns with what (little) I know about this historical period. For an accessible – albeit fictional – depiction of the collapse of 5th-century Roman Britain, Stephen Baxter does a good job of it in Coalescent¹. In the first part of the book, he describes how the crossing of the (frozen) river Rhein in 406² precipitated the political and economic destabilisation of Northern Gaul and then Roman Britain.
The focus on the Crossing of the Rhein and the Romano-Briton contenders for the throne seemed a little too conveniently dramatic. Having said that, I haven't read any more scholarly books on this period of history that contradict Baxter’s narrative and reading Coalescent book was a great way to learn about the various factors that caused the collapse of the Empire on the western fringes of Europe.
This is a very well done podcast on the fall of Roman Britain:
Thanks, I'll have a listen.
Here is another on a general fall of Rome: https://open.spotify.com/show/4uxl02KkkbvH8kYxWtKs8b
Warning its got about 20 hours of content
Public opinion is where the commonly held "Collapse of the (Western) Roman Empire" == "economic disaster" comes from, and it's only very recently that mass market history has started to move the needle way from Gibbons' nonsense.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (dubious as it may be sometimes), Gildas, and archeological evidence from Essex really don't agree with "fell hard". It very much appears that the empire didn't have enough resources to continue propping up a fringe border province from the death of Julian the Apostate onwards, and that Brittania brought in Anglo-Saxon foederati to help out, who filled a power vacuum after Constantine III left (and possibly invited others to settle).
Particularly under Honorious, fighting between the Vandals and the Franks tied up almost all of the Roman resources in Gaul, which mattered in a way Brittania did not, and the population started to move into fortified settlements, especially after Constantine III took most of the legionary troops off in rebellion. This isn't really that different from what was happening in Gaul.
Fifty years before the "fall" of the West, there was no meaningful military presence in Britain which was not foederati, and before that, the situation was so precarious that troops revolted, leading to its abandonment. As early as the crisis of the third century, Roman Britain's economy shifted to become far more regional, since long supply chains through Gaul were untenable.
The primary exports were extracted minerals. It was, at best, colonial exploitation in antiquity. Raids from the Caledonians had never stopped, ever. Britons convincingly repelled an Anglo-Saxon invasion in 490, and it was primarily peaceful after that (and before that). Balkanized, yes, but hardly subsistence living with roaming bands of invaders.
This isn't any different than northern Gaul, or southern Gaul as the Burgundians, Visigoths, Franks, and Vandals cycled through. Or Illyricum. It happened earlier, but not like you describe.
It's incredibly telling that Gildas had both the time and education to write a somewhat polemical history less than a century after a "complete collapse of the system, (where) people went back to sustenance living", in classical rhetorical style, wherein he mostly seems to regard Britons as still being Roman (despite the "fall" of the West by that time, and the abandonment of the province 100 years earlier), as a Christian, which also tells us that Christianity had not been abandoned yet.
This is utterly at odds with your views. Where and from whom did Gildas receive his education? Why should we disregard his accounts of Mons Badonicus? Why should we disregard the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and archaelogical evidence from Essex, Wessex, and Kent?
This narrative is false.
Thanks for the long reply. This take on the impact of the "Fall of Rome" in Britain is not one I have much exposure to. You obviously have read a good bit about this. Do you have any recommendations for reading?
I'm a historian by training. The primary sources can honestly be hard to read through.
I always think of history as kind of a tapestry, and filling in pieces (neighboring states, for example) can be reasonably informative.
If I were working backwards, since you're into podcasts, The History of Rome is obviously quite good, and The History of England essentially picks up the historical narrative with the Anglo-Saxon states prior to the Norman invasion. Having a good, digestible background (through these) makes the "missing middle" easier to fit in. There are very few easy/readable histories of it, but there are good histories of the Merovingians, for example, which can inform a lot about the neighboring region.
Yeah, we never really got to see the third age at its prime. We just know that the rise of Gondor came with a millennia of peace and prosperity for the west before things stalled. In the same way the period just before and after the collapse of Rome was not the best, but that doesn't mean it was worse than ancient civilisations at its peak.
The Third Age was roughly 1000 years of growth followed by 2000 years of war and decline. In some of Tolkien's writings, you can clearly find the idea of immortals fighting the long war that slowly wore the Numenoreans down over the millennia.
Nonetheless, the immortals (including Ilúvatar, but mostly their underlings) messing with the world was a lot more prevalent in the first and second age. The third age was kind of a transition to the age of men, which finally came by in the fourth. So for humans progress was definitely positive overall if you don't just look at the cataclysms.
> But if the "era of men" has come, as the elves say, perhaps the Middle Earth dwellers are doing something ok?
It's more a question of the elves spontaneously losing the will to live.
Losing the will to live != deciding it was time to leave (die)
I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Tolkien's cosmology is clear that, by the time of The Lord of the Rings, elves are not able to live outside Valinor. If they leave the protected enclaves created by the rings of power (Elrond maintains Rivendell by using Vilya; Galadriel maintains Lothlorien by using Nenya), they will be overcome by ennui and "die".
Elves do not physically die, but they will enter comas and their souls will appear in the house of one of the Valar. The Silmarillion records this happening to one elf whose comatose body is maintained (but unresponsive) while their soul can be visited and conversed with.
 This fails to explain how the Mirkwood elves can live there. But the answer appears to be that they can't, since they leave along with the other elves.
Original phrasing implied a sort of depressed suicide. In a figurative sense not the in world mechanics
That seems... accurate? The elves leave Middle-Earth because, when they stay in Middle-Earth, they are prone to spontaneously dying because they just can't bear to deal with being alive. "Losing the will to live" is a literal description of what happens to them, but "depressed suicide" isn't far off.
> Tolkien's universe is a quite depressing one. It's a series of stable periods interspersed with cataclysmic events that permanently lower the quality of life.
I've been sitting in this comment for a day or two now, trying to figure out what to say, because I totally get it. In a moment of serendipity, I was reading another book that illustrated I think the core conviction: humanity is not a machine, and while machines progress, people do not.
Tolkien sees in man a great capacity for both good and evil, rejects the notion of man's inherent goodness (borne of his Roman Catholicism and first-hand experience of WW1), and asserts that Good, while perhaps much diminished with respect to evil, is inherently the stronger force. (I think he's essentially Augustinian here--evil is an absence of Good or a mimicry of it, but cannot actually create. It only perverts.)
So yes, there is a sort of depressing aspect of his universe: a rejection of inherent goodness and of progress. People don't change, but their technology unleashes a capacity for evil on a massive scale. At the same time, there is an obvious thread of hope in the series, too. Evil cannot exist on its own, and the nature of the Good is to create anew. There are those touched from the outside whose goodness triumphs over the evil within and without. The eucatastrophe is real.
But that is because the ancients were more than human.
Notice that it is a hobbit who destroys the ring of power, nobody else could, be he dwarf, elf, wizard, whatever. Not even Aragorn!
Not so depressing if you look at it this way.
Well, technically, a covetous, duplicitous, schizophrenic creature that was once something like a Hobbit did it. But I think your point stands.
Nobody else could have brought the ring to Mt. Doom. Hell, the ring drove Boromir to madness and he wasn’t even a bearer.
His central idea is that living like Tom Bombadill is the joyous, uncomplicated foil to Sauron's world conquering evil. He was writing about a fantasy world 8000 years ago that was particularly dark and had yet to see 'the light'.
How fitting then that Tom Bombadil was completely and utterly cut from the movies...
THe movies were mostly Disney-field twaddle that ignored or overwrote many of the central themes and characters in the Lord of the Rings. Their only redeeming feature was that some of the actors delivered excellent performances, within the limited scope created by the director and screenwriter, and the landscape was kind of pretty.
The list of atrocities is long - the entire character of the Ents, the entire character of Faramir, the conversion of Saruman from a master propagandist and manipulator to a cartoon villain... Then there was the addition of unnecessary comic and action scenes, and the exclusion of critical scenes (Scouring of the Shire).
Read the books, ignore the Hollywood adaptations.
The Shire was a pretty bucolic place. Life was good, the beer was good, tobacco was available and corn was easy to filch. It was the place the Hobbits knew they wanted to return to, regardless of the wonders they saw or the horrors visited upon the world.
Tolkien was a devout Christian; what other view of a world would you expect from him?
That would only really map onto the fall from the garden of Eden. Of which there is evidence for I think. (Evidence that the idea influenced Tolkiens Middle Earth)
Any general romancing of past times is not Christian specific.
It's likely that the author was writing though a period of intense instability. Something like a major world war or two. That would for sure be an influence.
If you read the Old Testament, you'll find people living for centuries, miracles happening, and God intervening in matters all the time. But then people's lives grew shorter and life became boring and mundane.
The Christianity we know today was the state religion of the Roman Empire. It's core doctrines were agreed on in a council summoned by Constantine the Great. But then the great ancient empire fell. It was replaced by many lesser kingdoms, which tried to keep some old traditions alive, and the Church was the unifying force. But then the Church itself split apart, and the last remnants of the old empire fell to infidels coming from the east. And then the Church split again.
The idea that the world becomes lesser over time used to be a core part of Christian worldview. Industrialization changed that, but Tolkien considered the consequences of industry and technology a great evil.
This is true of many mythologies, it's far from exclusive to Christianity.
> Both Hesiod and Ovid offered accounts of the successive ages of humanity, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current age of the writer, in which humans are beset by innumerable pains and evils.
> Men neither bought nor sold; there were no poor and no rich; there was no need to labour, because all that men required was obtained by the power of will; the chief virtue was the abandonment of all worldly desires. The Krita Yuga was without disease; there was no lessening with the years; there was no hatred, or vanity, or evil thought whatsoever; no sorrow, no fear. All mankind could attain to supreme blessedness.
Was going to say the same. China was consistently in this state for most of recorded history, looking to past Dynasties for solutions to current problems. Or maybe more on point, the Yellow Emperor. Egypt had Horus in a very analogous role.
Your Roman and Hindu examples are spot on.
Progressive thought really is the exception and not the norm when I look at recorded history. You really only see it develop thematically as part of the Western Enlightenment. I think that primarily impacts so-called Western cultures, and in a sometimes contradictory way between sociopolitical and religious beliefs.
Caveat: I am not an expert in any of these topics. Just a hobbyist history/religion guy. I may be way off more thorough academic thought.
This is true of all mythology. Giants roamed when the nature of the world was obscure enough to make it plausible. I think that is what Tolkien was doing with Middle Earth: write a story set in a historical period where the fantasies born out of ignorance are actually real. Time marches on, the world continues to modernise and the fantasies fade until they only exist in books (red or otherwise).
In traditional Christianity, and in Tolkien's writings, the decline is not just a matter of myths and legends, but it extends to history. There used to be a great ancient empire, but it fell apart. You can still see its remains everywhere you go, because nothing that came afterwards managed to reach its greatness.
The success of European colonial empires started challenging that worldview, but some of the ideas remain strong. Especially in the parts of the world where the dominant church still claims it's the one universal Christian church. Of course, if you are a descendant of Protestants who fled Europe, your ancestors deliberately left that world and that culture behind.
There are plenty of stories in the Bible where people move from a past in slavery, exile or sin into a future of freedom, returning home, or salvation. Christianity is pretty big on Hope.
Yes, but salvation only happens off world.
The world degrades from the garden of Eden towards more chaos and finally the reign of Antichrist.
Only after that Christ emerges again, completely transforms Earth for a short while, and abolishes it altogether; the world ends.
>The world degrades from the garden of Eden towards more chaos and finally the reign of Antichrist.
I think you are missing a key moment, Christ being born. Christ’s life is the greatest moment in creation.
But Christ is born because the world needs saving. and the world keeps degrading after Christ ascends (returns, in a sense) to heaven. Prophetic activity ceases, miracles become more and more rare, etc.
After Christ, the world still tumbles towards hell, but now it has a hope to not completely end up there.
>The idea that the world becomes lesser over time used to be a core part of Christian worldview.
I would have a very hard time reading Genesis and then claiming that.
The pre/post eviction from Eden, and the gradual shortening of lifespans, seems to fit the pattern of decline.
Is your point that, taken as a whole, the overall trend isn't so negative?
After the fall there’s not much of a trend. Sometimes things seem better sometimes worse, but generally people are looking forward to rest, not backward to halcyon days.
> Any general romancing of past times is not Christian specific.
Quite true. OTOH, the "popular version" of recent Christian theology and myth has the quite un-enviable task of reconciling an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-benevolent God, who loves the humans who He created...with the actual (often horrible) reality that humans are stuck living in. Trying to do that generally requires a lorry-load of depressing plot twists, lawyerly double-talk, etc.
The Book of Job (c. 500BC) in the Old Testament discusses this at great length.
The "accuser" (Satan) says people only worship God because they get good rewards. If God doesn't reward them, they'd stop worshipping. God disagrees, and allows Satan to test his theory by inflicting great suffering on a righteous, blameless person (Job). Job's friends say "obviously you've sinned, and this is punishment from God", which Job denies. Job eventually demands God justify his suffering, and God takes him on a walk through all creation, effectively saying "you'll never understand divine justice, because it's way too complicated".
So this is not just a recent Christian question, but one that dates back to early Judaism.
It's not just romancing. It's pretty much required for your belief system to overcome the challenge of standing still because everything's so comfortable and idyllic where we are. Having a golden past and still choosing to walk into the uncertain future is hard a idea to avoid for a faith to exist past a few generations.
Well, certainly you have to think you can make a significant contribution that won’t be shadowed by everything from the past that is irremediably unbeatable in term of quality, to produce some masterpieces like the one JRRT delivered to the world.
That's entropy for you. On a cosmic scale, we are currently living in the universe's First Age. Maybe even Second Age. Stars are still being born, we still have supernovas, the light of distant galaxies still reaches us.
On the other hand, Population II and III stars, the ancient supermassive stars who fused the metals that enabled the birth of Population I stars and the formation of planets, are all extinct now. Only the light of distant specimens, which has traveled for more than half of the univere's existence, still bears witness to their reign.
But at one point, we will enter a Third Age. Light from distant galaxies will dim. Light from the earliest moments in history will grow too far to reach us as the universe unceasingly expands faster and faster. Still, our own little corner of space is still alive, stars still emerge. But they are dim and weak compared to the stars of old. When they die, they bloat and fizzle out. The last supernova in the galaxy was billions of years ago. It will remain like this for a long time.
And then we enter a Fourth Age. The universe is dying. Fuel has ran out for new star formation. Even on the best nights, the majority of the night sky is pitch black. Black holes outnumber everything else. Except for a few galaxies, the rest of the universe is out of reach. The expansion has reached such a velocity that even travelling at the speed of light you will never reach another region of the universe ever again. Every day, another light goes out in the night sky, never to be replaced. This process is slow. The universe's death is immensely slow and dragged out. But it's not inhospitable to life. The vast majority of stars in this age are small, but exceptionally long-lived. They can support planets, and all the elements necessary for life. Seeing as life will eventually arise if the environment supports it, the universe will be booming with it. The overwhelming majority of all that will ever live will live in this Fourth Age. Cosmologists call it the Degenerate Era. To the species living in this age and their civilisations, the mysteries of the universe will forever be inaccessible. They can only observe the diminutive, extinguishing fragment of the universe, now spread out across distances many orders bigger than they are today. It will be a very populated, yet lonely universe.
Eventually, the universe will die. Stars will flame out one after another. Planets will freeze. This phase dwarfs even the Fourth Age. It lasts seemingly forever. Slowly, the atoms in all that exists decompose as even their age starts to show. The universe itself becomes fundamentally incompatible with life. Only black holes seem unaffected.
But even they are slowly dying. Ever so slowly. Not that it matters. Once time itself has lost all meaning, they start to slowly evaporate, until the universe is just a dead sea of energy, with naught but tiny ripples born from quantum randomness.
After that, it will take an infinity of time for anything to happen. But anything can happen, and maybe, eventually, by pure quantum randomness, all the energy in the universe may coalesce into one point, and it can all start over again.
Although that is the most consensual scenario, given our current most tested theories, the fact is there is still so much we don’t know. Certainly, no one know what will be the dominant humankind representation of the universe in two centuries, let alone what interpretations will be given about them.
An then, after all that, AC will say "LET THERE BE LIGHT!".
So let's hurry up and get all the hydrogen we can reach and clump it together into one region so we can burn it controlledly at whatever rate fits our needs.
The scale of time over which this will happen will be soo great that we humans most likely wont need to worry about it. We will either die out or evolve many times before then.
Other way around: we're the only part of the cosmos that is even capable of worrying about it. It falls to us. Every second we waste is another few civilizations' worth of energy irretrievably lost.
You know. No pressure.
The only part of the cosmos that we know of that is capable of worrying about it...
The fact that our sun still shines is strong evidence that we're alone.
"The past is a lost golden age" has historically been a really common trope. Like, not just in fiction; people really believed in it.
It's actually true, of course people believed in it.
I think the average person living in today's world has it way better than 99% of humans in history, it's easily the best time to be alive. Infant mortality, life expectancy, chances of dying to violence or starvation or preventable disease, all kinds of gruesome things have drastically declined over the course of history and civilization. When else was it possible for most healthy people to live to 70, to travel the world a few times, and to live in relative peace and harmony?
And entertainment, joy in the arts, categories of aesthetics have vastly improved as well. Look at art and film and music in the past five hundred years. Look at the works of Bach and anyone before him, he's clearly the greatest musician known in the world up to 1750, and since him in just 275 years, we've had hundreds of phenomenal musicians that outrank any before Bach. This is one mere slice of culture which is evidence of the vast improvement in human capability in modern times.
For most of the world this is obviously the best time to be alive in human history.
There are definite arguments to be made in favour of pre-industrial / pre-agricultural society, shorter lifespans and lack of cures for various diseases notwithstanding.
Short version of said arguments?
Search for Jared Diamond (polymath author of many great books) on agriculture as a mistake, e.g.
Agriculture made us a lot unhealthier and shorter in stature (monoculture/unbalanced diets), and it also lead to massive power imbalances -- modern people spend more of their lives working.
This is a very mainstream observation -- it's also supported by Sapiens, the popular human history book of the last 5 years (recommended by Obama, Gates, etc.).
David Graeber's recent book argues that many early human societies purposely avoided agriculture, and then got "trapped" into the inequality of agriculture.
The argument is that there is enough for everybody, but agriculture leads to power imbalances, which make most people's lives miserable.
It's true that they were more miserable say in the 1500's in Europe than today. We have "recovered" from Europe of the 1500's, but that doesn't mean that this is the best time ever!
Indeed it's hard to relate to something so unrealistic /s
Eh, the Numenoreans reached a quality of life that was better than First Age Middle Earth inhabitants (don't mind the guys chilling @ Valinor, literal Paradise/Avalon), then we in the Sixth Age did it again. But yeah, the metaphysics of the setting, that all creatures no matter how great or small only have so much gas inside themself - not even Melkor was able to reach his greatness in the dawn of the world, or even during the First Age. He spread himself too thin in his monstrous creations - dragons, orcs, thousands other things, and into the soil and gold of Arda Marred.
Yeah the tone of LOTR is oppressive, reserved, alien, post apocalyptic. I read the novel many times as a kid and loved it, so I hated the 2001 film. Imo visually it was perfect, it literally looked like the books did in my imagination. But in every other respect it was completely off, especially the overall tone. The 2nd biggest issue for me was the music, they had a great opportunity to do something interesting and alien with the music, but nah its just generic hollywood rousing adventure music that never stops playing.
As a New Zealander the movies always felt off. I'd read the books cover to cover multiple times by that point, and they'd transported me to a strange, beautiful and foreign world.
Then I see it on the big screen and the landscapes and flora were all familiar to me. If I hadn't seen similar stuff in person, I'd seen them on local TV advertisements for beer, butter and toyotas.
So I try and ignore them these days, and cling on to the LOTR that I first saw in my head that looks nothing like home.
Meanwhile every time I visit New Zealand, especially the south island, I keep pointing at the scenery and excitedly proclaiming: "Look! It's like the Lord of the Rings movies!"
My European relatives get equally excited when they visit Australia, but for me it's like... meh... I just work here.
I always wonder how Americans feel about their entertainment largely being set in American with Americans speaking American accents. How can you imagine a different world?
America is big, you only get the “this movie was made in my home” vibe if it was filmed quite close and there’s a lot of “not close” in America.
There is a lot of regional variation, but the difference is quite a lot smaller than in other places in the world.
It is indeed harder to imagine a different world because we are culturally isolated, but our isolated world is quite a bit larger than I would bet would be easily imagined coming from somewhere else.
There are also things that I think people just tend to take for granted regardless of where they live, even outside of America.
"The Book of General Ignorance" talks about an example of this with frogs:
> There are 4,360 known species of frog, but only one of them goes "ribbit." Each species has its own unique call. The reason everyone thinks all frogs go "ribbit" is that "ribbit" is the distinctive call of the Pacific tree frog (Hyla regilla). This is the frog that lives in Hollywood.
> Recorded locally, it has been plastered all over the movies for decades to enhance the atmosphere of anywhere from the Everglades to Vietnamese jungles.
Frogs don't sound like that here but that's not something that ever seemed incongruous to me until it was pointed out in a book.
Even within the United States, different regions can feel like different worlds.
The most stark contrast I’ve seen is in the indie film Lady Bird where (SPOILERS) there is a setting change from a very small rural American town for most of the plot to New York City at the end of the film, with it’s subways, density, and architecture that felt familiar to any watcher from an urban area.
Similarly, the suburban Texas setting of the King of the Hill deliberately contrasts itself with New York-based shows (referring to Seinfeld as, “I'll tell you what, man, them dang ol' New York boys. Just a show about nothin,’” with other joked about the disdain of many Texans of New Yorkers).
Lady Bird was set in Sacramento, not a small town.
I agree that in real life, Sacramento is no small town, and it was inaccurate to describe it as very small and rural.
However, I remember the depiction of Sacramento in the movie was intended to stand in contrast with a bigger city (which is why a major conflict is about the protagonist wanting to move away).
Reviews by several critics also described that setting as a small town, and I remember reading discussions around the release about how other perspectives of Sacramento could view the place as much larger and diverse.
The film’s writer and director Greta Gerwig more precisely described her view in an SF Chronicle article (https://www.sfchronicle.com/movies/article/On-location-How-L...): “It’s not rural, but it is not like a New York or a San Francisco either. It is somewhere in the middle.”
That's a choice people make, not an inevitable situation. Babylon Berlin for example, that's popular among people who aren't interested in a Hollywood-only diet. So is a lot of Japanese anime.
As a non-American, do you feel like you get an honest depiction of what America is like when you consume American media?
America as shown by Hollywood is a different world.
Sadly California media has crushed the world - even the US used to have very distinct regional accents but now most everyone speaks “American TV announcer”.
Just guessing, but I think that those more curious also have plenty of less US-centrist material available at hand, and if you are not, you don’t mind.
> they had a great opportunity to do something interesting and alien with the music
In their defense, as a film score alone, disregarding the source material, at least they had a score—unlike most subsequent action/adventure movies, e.g. 21st century DC and Marvel movies with some incidental mood sounds in the background but never a melody to be heard.
But yes, I've only read Hobbit and the first few chapters of Fellowship, but to me Bo Hansson's 1970 album better evokes Middle-earth than Shore's score.
Well it's less depressing than Warhammer 40k lore.
Or a Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)
That’s only if you are elvish, though. Are you an elf?
This is interesting because many maaany fantasy works since then follow this theme as well
Seemingly every JRPG style game has some confluence of magic and technology with a prior ancient civilization being better at all of it
yes, I'm finding this trope a little tired because it's like everywhere. It could be interesting to have a setting in the first age, like there's no ruins from previous civilization, you are building what would become those ruins instead.
And it's also not limited to fantasy, as it's also there in sci-fi
Definitely a tired trope, but I like the Witcher’s variant on that. Mostly different dimensions that are collidable and occasionally traversed. Still has a segregated fairly advanced Elven kingdom seemingly predating man.
But the observations that vanquishing threats to society dont necessarily raise the standards of living is some pretty well in the Witcher franchise. Very nihilist.
It helps making for example artefacts/weapons/anything else worth striving for much less obtainable. For example 'every good smith can forge top class dragon slayer sword', instead of 'this unique magic sword from 2nd era forged by legendary smith xyz from unobtainium pooped by long-extinct fire dragons'
There are plenty of stories you can tell that don't rely on tracking down a MacGuffin and plenty of ways of making a MacGuffin unique other than being from a lost golden age.
Breath of the Wild comes to mind
Not to mention the abysmal position of women in the book. Did you know that there are zero women in The Hobbit? Not to forget the thinly concealed racism.
I've read the book many times, but recently, I can't enjoy them anymore like I used to.
Few women going on adventures in a pre-industrial society doesn't strike me as odd.
Nor was few women going on adventures the least bit odd for the era in which the books were written. And that being an age (WWI to WWII) where "men got to go out on exciting adventures" was often a rose-colored-glasses translation of "over 100,000 lucky men got to become casualties of war in merely the Second Battle of Ypres, in which the Germans first used poison gas on a large scale" grim realities...being a woman starts to sound like the better deal.
The more history I learn the more I think that in some respects - certainly culturally and artistically - this is true for our own time.
I wonder what an AI trained with Tolkien books would produce.
The other day there was this Seinfeld joke telling AI and it was really good. I wonder if this could be done for dead authors, I would "kill" for a Gene Roddenberry Star Trek again in line with TNG.
Check out Star Trek: Strange New Worlds!! Nothing like the other “new trek” shows (Discovery/Picard) which I couldn’t finish because they felt nothing like Trek to me. SNW follows the moral/philosophical issue of the week format with lite tie ins between episodes. Very happy so far
Seconded. SNW is very much a return to the style of TOS and TNG. Strongly recommended for people who prefer those two over everything that came after them.
Thirded. SNW has been a delight. It feels like Star Trek, which most of the other series, regardless of their relative merits, do not.
For me the most "trek" modern series is oorville, despite being a mcfarlane production.
SNW piqued my interest though.
Agreed. If you can get past the first few episodes which are much more broad comedy, they get less and less sitcom and more and more pure trek.
SNW really brings Trek back to its roots. Absolutely worth watching, particularly if you're a fan of The Orville (which I am as well).
The obstacle here is probably consistency in long form writing. Even in short form writing, AI often jumps around and introduces new elements while ignoring old ones. New models that retain a sort of plot memory are necessary for long form generated writing.
I think you do not need to wait that long for marketed AI written synquels. (I just made this up for "synthetic sequel").
It will be very interesting to see how exactly this is marketed and how big the market for such product will be.
Sequels, spin-offs are alle the rage, but B-Sides, lost tracks or unpublished material are less mainstream.
https://youtu.be/1onxri0duN0 is this the Seinfield AI you were talking about? Wow that legitimately impressed me. If that last joke was actually original and not present anywhere in it's training data, then AI is farther along than I thought
Edit: ah looks like it was posted on hackernews a few days ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31788976
I've been looking forward to the AI generated movie for a while now. I'm hopeful that, before I die, I'll get to see a book-faithful movie without the goofiness of the official version.
I've been a Tolkien fan since a very young age when I would read and re-read the old copies my mother handed down to me of Hobbit and LotR. Then I went on to read the Silmarillion and all of the "unfinished" books.
Having said that, I cannot fathom why anyone would be upset about new material. The books you love are still the books you love. They haven't changed at all, and they won't. If you don't like the new stuff, ignore it, like we all do for almost all media that is released.
I wish someone had warned me about Star Wars, post-Disney acquisition. But, no, here I am subjecting myself to Kenobi. Maybe given the furor here, I should read the tea leaves, and avoid having another glowing memory tarnished.
You can literally just not watch it.
Trivia: In the year 2000 a book with that name was published for the Spanish speaking market.
I don't think this is new content though - it looks like this is all of the Second-Age writing brought together into one volume.
It is not new stories no but it is being edited to form a more complete story one could say. They usually provide some really good commentary by Tolkien scholars in these publications as well so usually well worth the money (note: completely biased Tolkien nerd).
The Tolkien Society is completely filled with oversocialized academics who compete to find the most insane interpretations of his work as possible. Not a good source! I wish they would be disbanded
Why Amazon or Peter Jackson haven't taken up "Narn i Chîn Húrin" and film it I'll never understand. Such an epic, self-contained hero/tragedy.
Tolkien wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote drafts. Like The Fall of Gondolin, this is not going to be a cover to cover story. It is going to be up to several attempts by Tolkien to tell the story, edited by and along with Christopher Tolkien's commentary. It is going to reveal few precious morsels about Numenor. Ultimately, the content itself is only going to amount to a short story, but told a few different times in slightly different ways. We already know the story, the outline of it, anyway. So now we'll get some fine detail here and there as well.
If you love the Lord of The Rings and are looking for a fun way to exercise, I can't recommend this Virtual Running App enough.
I've run half way to Mordor and lost 8 pounds in the last couple months.
I've always felt like this was one of the more compelling possible stories in the Middle Earth canon, so it might be the first one I seek out since being sorely disappointed by the Silmarillion. Done right, it could have all the drama and power of Game of Thrones but in a less depressing world. Unfortunately, since they don't seem to have brought in any outside writers, it's more likely to be yet another academically-dry collection of disconnected anecdotes. I guess we'll find out.
Is this the first book (except for the Hobbit and LOTR of course) not edited by Christopher Tolkien? Hopefully it will maintain the high quality of the others.
The article is a little contradictory on that, it first states that Brian Sibley is the editor but in the quote of Brian Sibley he states his task as 'bringing together J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings (under the editorship of Christopher Tolkien) relating to the dramatic history spanning the Second Age of Middle-earth'.
So it says further down: “ Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien”
So “originally” edited by Christopher Tolkien (who is dead), further editing by Brian Sibley.
I wonder if the edits were to bring it inline with the woke amazon series?
(I heard it was woke first, over plot/canon, but this could be false.)
Huh good point. A sad day for the Tolkien Estate if this is true.
I (perhaps over-optimistically) read it as Brian Sibley is taking the various edited work Christopher Tolkien did on the Second Age texts and bringing them together in a single place, in order, with some sort of commentary or framework around them. Doesn't sound like he's actually re-working the texts themselves, but who knows.
No, The Nature of Middle Earth was done by Carl F Hostetter.
A bunch of them have been edited by Verlyn Flieger as well (like Kullervo and Aotrou and Itroun).
And other books have been edited by other people still, see the list here for example: https://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/books-by-tolkien .
Oh, that's also very recent. Published last year. But the editing apparently started 25 years ago.
That cow has been milked, milked again, squeezed for every last drop, then when it died, its corpse was milked and the pus that came out was mistaken for milk so it was squeezed again for every last drop of pus.
This is why some people use the unpleasant metaphor of a skin suit to describe most of the continuing franchises of star wars, trek, marvel etc. They aren't primarily being written or inspired by their creators as much as new people wearing the skin of their creator.
What particularly struck me about Top Gun: Maverick, which I didn't expect at all, is that it held a very unflattering mirror up to the Marvel dross that's being endlessly churned out by showing how to make an absolutely great action movie. Yes, I know it's a sequel, and yes, there are many aspects of the story that are hardly groundbreaking, but it's just incredibly well done.
(I realise TG: Maverick isn't going to be everybody's taste but it's the best film I've seen at the cinema in a long time, and the first time I've walked out of a movie feeling absolutely wowed since, perhaps, The Matrix came out in 1999.)
Marvel films have cheap, lazy cinematography, for the most part, so they leave a lot on the table in the name of (I assume) saving money. Every Frame a Painting mentions this in a few videos, especially their poor use of music and failure to do anything with mood-of-setting and, relatedly, camera work and editing (match it to the mood of the scene, contrast it to mood of the scene—little of that kind of thing at all, it's just very flat).
> (I realise TG: Maverick isn't going to be everybody's taste but it's the best film I've seen at the cinema in a long time, and the first time I've walked out of a movie feeling absolutely wowed since, perhaps, The Matrix came out in 1999.)
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Blade Runner 2049
- RRR if pure, audacious, crazy popcorn-munching spectacle and a movie that's constantly saying "yes, and..." does it for you.
- Dune (the new one). Watch it on the biggest screen and best sound system you can get access to. Actually, that kinda goes for all of these.
A big step down from those in quality and they're not going to give you that "wow" effect, but still action films that are better than nearly all Marvel movies:
- Any Mission Impossible movie except maybe 2.
- The John Wick movies.
- The Raid 1 & 2 (which Dredd rips off pretty blatantly, but it's decent, too)
I've heard very good things about the later Planet of the Apes (remake series) movies but have only seen the first one, personally.
Painful to limit myself to action movies. There are so many good films.
I've seen and enjoyed quite a lot of those and, yes, there have been many great action-oriented films outside of Marvel (thankfully!). Mad Max: Fury Road is a real stand-out. Amongst the rest I've seen, I agree with you that they're better than at least the vast majority of Marvel movies, and I suspect the ones I haven't would also be better.
Still, my bigger point, is that I suppose I thought I was past the point where a movie could really wow me. Top Gun: Maverick completely disabused me of that (although I suppose it mostly means the bar is that much higher).
To return to Mad Max: Fury Road - it was fantastic but didn't leave me feeling blown away by the sheer spectacle of the thing like Top Gun: Maverick did, even though it was a spectacular movie, or like The Matrix had done 16 years before. Those flying and cockpit scenes in TG: Maverick, you really felt like you were there. I saw it on IMAX (which I'd highly recommend) and was on the edge of motion sickness it was that good.
I hope that makes more sense of what I'm trying to say: I wouldn't describe myself as a film buff, by any means, but I am someone who pretty regularly sees films at the cinema because, despite developments in home theatre, it's still tough to beat a screen that's 72 feet wide.
I'll have to make it to Top Gun before it's out of theaters. Yours isn't the only very-positive review I've seen. Thanks for sharing.
I was especially moved by a scene where the Tom Cruise humbly confesses “this is the only look I have”, in relatable acknowledgment of his limitations as an actor.
Eyes Wide Shut? Collateral? Magnolia? He can certainly play characters outside the big action hero. He just gets paid a shitload of money to keep making shit big budget action movies and he's a high level cult leader who has an ego the size of a planet.
He could do well in a little indie movie that pushes his range but his life and personality prevents that way more than his range as an actor.
>Eyes Wide Shut?
Tangent about this:
There was a very interesting Roger Ebert review of Eyes Wide Shut that addressed some of the criticism of Tom Cruise's acting in that film. Cruise had been described as "wooden" and Ebert came to his defense. Kubrick - who is on record as being a perfectionist who believes that actors are best when they're meat puppets for the director - made Cruise go through 97 takes of walking through a door. Either that's just sadism on part of the director's ego (and there may be something to that, Kubrick is notorious for playing psychological games with actors to get the performance he wants - or Kubrick working to get exactly what he wants on the screen.
The whole movie can be taken as a sort of metaphor for how movie stars like Tom Cruise and the movies he makes, with real stunts and little CG, are a dying breed. Especially the scene with Admiral Caine telling Maverick that drones replacing pilots is inevitable, and Maverick replying, "Maybe, but not today."
The movie was super-derivative and unoriginal. It worked well as an homage to the sequel almost to a fault. I was expecting better action sequences with modern film-making techniques but they stuck to original techniques (or replicated it). My friends were all underwhelmed as well after hearing things like "greatest action movie in this century" anecdotes. It broke no new ground. Now, The Matrix, was all the things this move wasn't: Original. Groundbreaking.
Please see Everything Everywhere All At Once
With rare exceptions like The Mandalorian, I can just no longer summon up enthusiasm or interest in franchises that date back to the 1960s or 70s--even when there's not really anything wrong with a given film or TV show. (Though there are plenty of examples where the latest film or TV show is not in fact very good.)
I grew up reading my father's pulp scifi collection. I have a keen desire for the gritty Star Wars universe as told by the likes of Timothy Zahn (seriously, the Admiral Thrawn trilogy needs to be faithfully pursued).
Even George Lucas was unable to recapture his original vision.
I'm probably more sympathetic (and often more enjoy) stories that are told in an existing universe but don't overly try to "go home again." Deep Space 9 was a good example in the Star Trek universe and Rogue One in Star Wars.
The Simpsons is among the absolute worst of offenders. See Dead Homer Society  for a passionate fan's detailed explanation.
The mantra "Simpsons is bad from 13 season", or "from 15 season", or "all after 19 season is garbage", or "the last good season was 23" is just something that people repeat like a parrot moving the date of the season around to fit their time interval experience.
Many people blame the Simpsons, when what really happened is that they grow
They remember how funny Simpsons were in the past. A past that in fact is highly idealized in their minds. They forget that 70% of the jokes flied totally under their radar at that age, and that understanding the double meanings and finding the hidden twisted messages about how the society works was a lot of the fun.
Discoveries are more interesting when you are innocent. To see somebody slip and get hurt in the workplace is not so funny when that person could be you and experience a real workplace. School jokes are more funny when you are at the school and can use that information.
It's as though the characters have been reduced to cartoonish two-dimensional caricatures.
I’m disappointed, the actual book link gives a 404
This feels different to me — so much of this content _is already written_ in manuscript and note form and is being edited. And written before many of us were born.
Laundry lists of middle earth, coming to a "bookseller" near you.
I love LOTR, but this is kind of gross.
And yet there is also this:
What is even going on on this forum? Is this fan fiction?
More like a group of amateur historians trying to correct the record
Makes me think of how gross it is that they still milk avicii's brand to this day years after his body left our world.
Is that even close to the same thing?
LOTR keeps getting new "content". Has there been new music released from the library of avicii? I'm not talking about remixes upon remixes. Is there a AviciiSociety in charge of his legacy content that decides who/what/when/where can use the unreleased content to do something new? Maybe there is, and I can learn something new.
This is a vividly disgusting analogy and has no place in civil discussion. I happen to be eating my breakfast, and you're threatening my stomach.
You can make points without hideous imagery.
Meanwhile, you're merely being petulant. People like things, and want more of the things they like. Why shouldn't we prolong their enjoyment where we can? How does it harm us?
It's healthier than drinking pus from a dead cow's teat.
> People like things, and want more of the things they like. Why shouldn't we prolong their enjoyment where we can? How does it harm us?
This is an opinion, no one is asking a ban on making more Marvel or Star Wars universe movies. If you like it, watch it.
I'm on the same opinion as the poster above, I cant watch Marvel/DC/Star Wars anymore, they bore me to death. Also they corrupt my memories from the original ones. For example I loved Iron Man, but now there are so many superhero movies that I feel aversion, boredom and some sadness that they have taken away all the magic that these movies had.
I make some exceptions but like you I just get bored. Even with the best TV series, I'm pretty much ready to check out after about five seasons even if it's still going strong. It's one reason I don't really have a problem with the relatively short durations of a lot of streaming shows so long as they wrap things up reasonably.
I also appreciate this isn't a universal opinion and that some people are just fine with endless genre series whether books/TV/film or a show like Grey's Anatomy which has been running for almost 20 years because they're likely just very comfortable with everything about it.
They're not "asking to ban it," but they are attempting, through obstreperous language, to discourage it.
Sounds like another Silmarillion.
More like another "The Children of Húrin".
To be honest, it's a transparent cash grab by the Tolkien Estate first, and anything else a distant 1000th.
Yeah, sounds like it's just a rehash / re-compilation of Christopher Tolkien's work. I'll pass.
Do you not think that Tolkien fans want this?
Of course many want this. Which is why this kind of cash-grab works in the first place.
So the Lord of the Rings was also a cash grab based on the success of the Hobbit? That's a strange idea
What’s funny is the publishers asked for another Hobbit, and Tolkien even started writing one (the early chapters have a more hobbity tone with thinking foxes, etc) but then went in a completely different direction and depth.
This is not aimed at fans. This is pure and simple scraping the very bottom of the barrell to try and pretend that there's a story somewhere to try and re-capture audiences.
"LotR and The Hobbit brought us billions, and fantasy genre is doing quite well, so why not strike iron while it's lukewarm"
Wouldn't be much of a cash-grab if nobody bought it, would it?
No but I don't think literally all products are "cash grabs". To me that implies a lack of care for the source material or anything besides money. As I asked the other commenter, do you also think that the Lord of the Rings was a cash grab riding off of the success of the Hobbit?
I don't get the comparison. This effort (by others' comments: a rearranging and editing of existing materials, with new illustrations?) with LOTR (a wholly original, although related, trilogy) gives me false from the areEqual() call.
There's a market. Fans will buy. Money is good. Some would say the repackaging is worth it. From an originality-perspective, others wouldn't -- still, more, considering its "timely" release.
If you are in that second camp, this is the very definition of a cash-grab.
> gives me false from the areEqual() call.
I can't talk to you seriously if you engage with me in a childish way
Would it be worth reading?
TIL silmarilion was edited by someone other that Tolkien himself. I found it an amazing read, arguably better than hobbit and the Frodo books.
Wasn't that Christopher Tolkien, JRR Tolkien's son? I think he was instrumental in even other works, including the maps in the original Lord of the Rings by his father.
It was Guy Gavriel Kay (uncredited) with Christopher Tolkien. More on it here: https://www.tolkiensociety.org/2014/10/guy-gavriel-kay-descr...
> TIL silmarilion was edited by someone other that Tolkien himself.
He (Christopher) was Tolkien, just not the same one ;)
Silmarillion was sort of Tolkien's backstory/worldbuilding notes though. If there was any other unpublished material worth publishing, his son would have already done it.
Hard pass on this new one.
This is a misunderstanding. Firstly, Christopher published tons of material after the Silmarillion: the whole History of Middle Earth series, plus Unfinished Tales, Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, The fall of Gondolin, and some other books.
But more importantly, JRR Tolkien intended to publish the Silmarillion as an actual book with a canon narrative, just like Lord of the Rings, but he died before doing so. The Silmarillion, as published, was the product of an earlier thinking of Christopher Tolkien that tried to reconcile different versions of unfinished materials, written in a large timespan (a lot of it even before Lord of the Rings), into a single coherent piece. That is, to do the job of his father. At some places, Christopher had to write stuff almost from scratch, to fill gaps that his father intended to write but never managed to. And he did all this in just 4 years, with the help of just one other dude. So Christopher wasn't just the editor of the Silmarillion, he was also its uncredited co-author.
Christopher later thought that presenting The Silmarillion as the authoritative work containing a single narrative, instead of showcasing the multiple, contradictory narratives that Tolkien wrote over the years, was too reducing and misleading. If Tolkien had managed to publish the book, he would have blessed a single coherent narrative as canon, but he didn't.
As such, Christopher decided that his next work, The History of Middle Earth series (HoME for short), would actually showcase all draft versions and not just the one that Christopher decided to be canon. In this sense, HoME works better as the worldbuilding notes than the Silmarillion (and also other books like Beren and Lúthien, that describe many drafts of the story rather than just the one in Silmarillion)
Here's what Christopher has to say about this, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silmarillion and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silmarillion#Posthumous_pu...
> Because J. R. R. Tolkien died leaving his legendarium unedited, Christopher Tolkien selected and edited materials to tell the story from start to end. In a few cases, this meant that he had to devise completely new material, within the tenor of his father's thought, to resolve gaps and inconsistencies in the narrative, particularly Chapter 22, "Of the Ruin of Doriath".
> As explained in The History of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien drew upon numerous sources, relying on post-Lord of the Rings works where possible, ultimately reaching as far back as the 1917 Book of Lost Tales to fill in portions of the narrative that his father had planned to write but never addressed. In one later chapter of Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Doriath", untouched since the early 1930s, he had to construct a narrative practically from scratch.[T 21] Christopher Tolkien commented that, had he taken more time and had access to all the texts, he might have produced a substantially different work. In his foreword to The Book of Lost Tales 1 in 1983, he wrote that[T 22]
> > by its posthumous publication nearly a quarter of a century later the natural order of presentation of the whole 'Matter of Middle-earth' was inverted; and it is certainly debatable whether it was wise to publish in 1977 a version of the primary 'legendarium' standing on its own and claiming, as it were, to be self-explanatory. The published work has no 'framework', no suggestion of what it is and how (within the imagined world) it came to be. This I now think to have been an error.[T 22]
> If there was any other unpublished material worth publishing, his son would have already done it.
I think this underestimates the huge job of publishing Tolkien's manuscripts. HoME was published from 1983 to 1996 and spans 12 volumes and some 5400 pages, and still doesn't contain everything!
At some level, this is the limitation of having a passionate fan base, many of which are obsessed with canon. (See early criticism of the LoTR films.)
With all due respect to Christopher, most of us would probably have been better off with a writer creating original storyline(s) that drew from JRR Tolkein's unpublished material but which weren't constrained by it--except perhaps to the extent it remained consistent with LoTR.
I'm fine with that, but just don't put JRR Tolkien as the (sole) author. And as I said, it would have been better if Christopher were credited as a co-author of the Silmarillion, because he really is.
But also I think copyright should be amended just to clear up the legal status of fanfics and derivative works and definitely allow them, as long as they are clearly labeled as such
And actually.. I really like the fanfic "The Last Ringbearer", described in those two articles (the second one written by its author, the article itself is a great read)
"Middle-earth according to Mordor" https://www.salon.com/2011/02/15/last_ringbearer/
"Why I reimagined "LOTR" from Mordor's perspective" https://www.salon.com/2011/02/23/last_ringbearer_explanation...
> With all due respect to Christopher, most of us would probably have been better off with a writer creating original storyline(s) that drew from JRR Tolkein's unpublished material but which weren't constrained by it--except perhaps to the extent it remained consistent with LoTR.
But that wouldn't have sold as well. In spite of it being actually honest. See the Dune "sequels". They might have been fine if they didn't have the Herbert name on it, but they do and there's no resemblance in depth and writing style between them and the actual Dune series.
If you just want more in the same universe, that works. But for me they're just cash grabs.
> I think this underestimates the huge job of publishing Tolkien's manuscripts. HoME was published from 1983 to 1996 and spans 12 volumes and some 5400 pages, and still doesn't contain everything!
I passed on that too. Mostly because I thought it will be a jumble of inconsistent stories. Or not what Tolkien would have wanted anyway.
But it was at least published before the movies... and the 9 hour Hobbit movie that should have been 90 minutes... and before a series that has nothing to do with LoTR.
While this new one, I bet it's a soul less professionally written work. Kinda like the Dune "sequels".
If the Silmarillion is the “Old Testament” to LotR then the HoME is like historical versions/documents of the same for Bible commentary.
The Children of Huron is basically taking one story and fleshing it out.
I liked it a lot, but many people seem to find it a hard slog to get through, especially coming from LOTR/the Hobbit. Especially the first part "Ainulindale", which you can safely skip until you've read the rest.
My tip would be to read it in partially reversed chronological order:
- start with "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" (which contains an amazing condensed version of LOTR)
- then "Akallabêth"
- then "Quenta Silmarillion"
- finally "Ainulindale"
None of these part depends on knowledge of the preceding parts, and IMO it's much easier to relate to / get a good context if you read them last-part-first.
I’ve heard before of people struggling through the Ainulindale, but to be honest I never could understand why. Maybe it has something to do with me being Catholic? I completely loved the Ainulindale, beginning to end.
I actually found it much easier to read AFTER reading, of all things, a book I bought at Costco called Heroes of Middle Earth. It was a very condensed run through the various personalities from the earliest days of Middle Earth up through the LOTR saga, written in a very pop culture style. After that basic familiarization with some key names and roles they played in some of the events from the first through third ages, it was much easier to follow the Silmarillion and I very much enjoyed it.
Tolkien has released more books than GRRM since A Dance With Dragons came out. Surreal.
I fell hard out-of-love with fantasy about the time of the release of Jackson's TFotR, which coincided with a hard "nope" to the fantasy "science" fiction of the Star Wars universe and has grown to a rejection of 95% of the MCU. They feel, to me, as schlocky and infantalizing as the fantasy of the Twilight & Harry Potter novels/films. It is all annoying nostalgia for an era that never existed.
Give me the "hard" science fiction of Herbert, Card, Dick, Butler (especially Butler!), Okorafor, Liu, et al. Dick was problematic, sure, and Liu has said things about Uighurs I can't stomach, but their works look forward and not back.
> Liu has said things about Uighurs I can't stomach
I wonder whether he "had to", not that it makes it okay. The parts about the cultural revolution in the first book were interesting because I didn't know you could still get published if you wrote negative stories about the party.
Critiquing the Cultural Revolution has been acceptable since 1981 when Deng published/authorized the party's second "Resolution on History," which laid out officially that there were "excesses" during the Cultural Revolution, and that they were primarily Mao's fault.
This is in line with a lot of Chinese/Communist political thought in general - the Party is never wrong. If the Party endorsed what is later viewed as a "wrong action," then it must be the fault of an individual who erred or was corrupted in some way.
It's surprising how well the "no true Scotsman" fallacy works on most people...
Sounds a lot like The Silmarillion.
I got about a quarter of the way through that book, before giving up.