"The History of The Lord of the Rings": 2020 Discussion Group

Extollager

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We come to the end of The Return of the Shadow and, though Tolkien has wondered if Trotter should be a Man (see, e.g., p. 393), he remains a hobbit. This probably tends to pull against Frodo's being the protagonist. Frodo is the Ring-bearer, but most readers would be finding Trotter/Peregrin a much more interesting character. Tolkien needed to un-hobbit Trotter (Strider); but two years into the writing of LotR, he hadn't done that.

396, 402/ Sauron spoken of as being now "fully awake." I was reminded of Lovecraft's Cthulhu, which I hardly think Tolkien ever heard of.

397/ From the notes here one can see why Tolkien might have thought that he'd already written by far the greater portion of LotR. In fact, he hadn't yet reached the end of what became The Fellowship of the Ring -- he wasn't even close to that.

398/ The language of Sauron's shadow reaching as far as the Blessed Realm (if he succeeds) suggests a partial answer to the question "What did Sauron want?"

402/ At the Council, as in the final version it seems there's no thought of an appeal being made to the Valar -- which isn't something that would have occurred to the reader of "the new Hobbit" anyway.
 

Extollager

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431/ Trotter "potentially Aragorn" -- my thesis has been that Tolkien's conception of Aragorn in FotR might owe a lot to Rider Haggard's Heart of the World. Was a (re)reading of Haggard's romance perhaps the catalyst that helped Tolkien at last to make Trotter into Aragorn?

443, 452ff./ Another speculation I'm fond of is that the monster in the lake got there by wandering over from H. G. Wells's sf horror story "The Sear-Raiders." The story may be read here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/42989/pg42989.txt

Does anyone want to discuss this possibility? That "tentacled" creature in the lake seems strikingly unlike the monsters in Tolkien's Middle-earth: the "goblins," the dragon, the Barrow-wights, the trolls, etc.; it's a science fictiony creature.

Finally, p. 462 -- the narrow underground land-bridge will certainly recall a great scene in Rider Haggard's She, which Tolkien is known to have read and liked.

So any comments on particular passages or on The Return of the Shadow as a whole?
 
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Extollager

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434/ I forgot to mention -- not that it matters -- that the names Thanador, Ulthanador, Orothan/Orthothanador sounded rather Barsoomian to me. Tolkien had read some of ERB's Martian fiction, but I don't suppose this is a case of influence.
 

Extollager

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What was going on with the Inklings at the end of 1939? Well, Lewis wrote to his brother on 3 Dec. that there was no Thursday meeting because "Williams & Hopkins were both away"; so he visited Tolkien at his home and they drank gin and limejuice and read to one another from works in progress: CSL from The Problem of Pain and Tolkien from "the new Hobbit."

It was a "very pleasant evening," and evidently Lewis walked both ways. "I was struck by the black-out in the town proper and in even such a very faint approach to country as North Oxford. In Longwall and Holywell I had to walk almost as one does in a dark room: but when I had got as far as Keble and houses began to be further apart and trees became visible against the grey sky (no stars, or moon) I strode along nearly as well as in an ordinary country walk after nightfall." Perhaps some of that visibility was due to Lewis's eyes gradually adjusting as he walked to Tolkien's residence on Northmoor Road.
 

Hugh

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Many thanks for your commentary @Extollager

Here are some thoughts from my read through. Obviously I'm not looking just to repeat your observations..

p.355 "Odo vanished last night". I'm very curious about what happened to Odo. How could Gandalf have let him vanish? Wasn't he Gandalf's responsibility? How did he get taken taken by the Black Riders? I may have missed something here, but I don't think this was ever clarified.
Tracking back to page 299: Tolkien wrote "Christopher wants Odo kept." As ever, there is the question of to what extent Tolkien was writing to entertain Christopher (born November 1924, so just fifteen in early 1940, and able to have an increasingly mature voice in these discussions).

p.363 Yes, I was very surprised by this early version of Treebeard capturing Gandalf and later in p.384

p.379 mention of Radagast

p 380 I found this early vision of the final stages of the LOTR remarkable, and likewise p.381

In fact I'm finding this whole process of writing and re-writing incredible. It's no wonder the LOTR ended up as such a fantastic work, given the process of writing, discussion, fermentation, further thought and writing over a period of years. Many authors would been content to stick with an early version, and it would almost certainly have been published toute suite as a successor to The Hobbit, but fortunately JRRT was such an unusually persistent perfectionist, and had the intensity of those Inkling discussions to assist in the fermentation. I think it's also true that he had limited writing time and so had to put it away for significant periods of time. In fact, as others have said, it's amazing, given his track record for uncompleted manuscripts, that he ever finished it.

I don't have any further comments on the text, but I have very much appreciated reading your thoughts, and the possible links to Haggard and H.G.Wells.

I remain very interested in the evolution of Trotter into Aragorn as this seems so central to the book evolving into something very different from a simple follow-up to The Hobbit.
 

Extollager

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In fact, as others have said, it's amazing, given his track record for uncompleted manuscripts, that he ever finished it.
It is. If not for the Inklings and especially for C. S. Lewis, Tolkien might well have given up. His own children were growing and perhaps not clamoring for a "new Hobbit" -- I don't recall ever reading that demand for more of Bilbo's adventures or more hobbit stories came from his kids and was a major impetus for writing.

Looks like it was a near thing.
 

pyan

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Extollager said:
386/ the fascination for Tolkien of hobbit genealogies
I think that JRRT just liked compiling genealogies, full stop. We don't just get the hobbit family trees, but those of Gimli, Aragorn, Elrond, Arwen and Eärendil, as well as the succession lines of the rulers of most of the countries...
 

Extollager

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Pyan, somewhere Tolkien said he was a hobbit himself -- and hobbits like books of information that they already know, set out fair and square with no contradictions.

But also, the genealogical habit may reflect the way Tolkien was steeped in the Icelandic sagas, which notoriously begin with the ancestors of the principal character(s); their view is that "who you are" includes "who your people were" -- very far from a common modern extreme, wherein your ancestry doesn't count, you don't even "discover" who you are, you construct who you are and you may tinker with that as much as you like and have buy the consumer goods appertaining thereto! Very convenient for businesses that produce those things. But not a traditional idea, such as Tolkien worked with.
 

Extollager

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I think it's also true that he had limited writing time and so had to put it away for significant periods of time.
For sure! That stood out to me when I read through the complete Scull-Hammond Chronology of Tolkien's life. Here was this man who was quite meticulous about details and who had constant academic responsibilities, scholarly obligations, teaching duties, &c.

I'm just now getting into The Treason of Isengard and it seems there may have been quite a hiatus in his writing between Dec. 1939 and August 1940.

There was a lot going on in the world at that time!
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Hugh

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Before I started reading up on Tolkien two or three years ago, I'd thought of him as having a life of leisure in a job that was pretty much a sinecure with ample time to pursue his own interests. Hah!
 
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