Tolkien's Late Thoughts 2: Morgoth’s Ring pp. 301-431


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
I'd like to suggest a discussion in July of Morgoth’s Ring pp. 301-431, with “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” (though this is not Third Age) and the Myths Transformed section.

The "Athrabeth" may be the finest completed piece of writing about Middle-earth to have been left unpublished by Tolkien at his death, along with The Silmarillion regarded as a completed work, which could have been a good book for the "Athrabeth" to appear in.
Lest there be confusion at the outset, the hroa (plural hroar) is the body of an incarnate being.
Tolkien always wants to maintain the integrity of his imagined ancient times. (It's probably better to say "imagined times" than "imaginary world," since Middle-earth is to be understood as our own world, a long time ago.) Thus he is wary of inventions that would betray the activity of a writer who is our contemporary. In the "Athrabeth," Tolkien deals with the topic of death, the nature of the souls of Elves and Men, the origin of human evil, etc. As a Christian, he doesn't want to write something that is ruled out by Christian doctrine. But he must also steer clear of putting things into the mouth of the Men and Elves of long ago that, on the assumption of ancientness, etc., they would not know. The "Athrabeth" passes the test. The Elf and the woman come up against things they cannot see clearly, things about which they lack knowledge that was unavailable to them then.

This situation intrigued Tolkien. His take on Beowulf, as I recall, is that it is the work of a Christian poet who is trying to imagine not only the adventures but the minds of people living in an ancient darkness. Without the confidence imparted by the Christian hope, what could they bring to the conflict with the monsters? With what dignity could they die and be buried?

Accompanying the "Athrabeth" is a short piece, the "Tale of Adenel," a mortal woman's account of an ancient tradition relating to primordial catastrophe.

Due for discussion here, the "Myths Transformed" section of Morgoth's Ring.
Pages 409-411 contain a few tantalizing paragraphs about the nature and origin of the Orcs. It seems Tolkien wasn't sure what he could do as regards the origin of these evidently irredeemable but articulate creatures. He was writing before the possibilities of genetic engineering such as are discussed today were being explored, but they might have been of use to him.