Is History of Middle-Earth Canon?

Discussion in '"The History of Middle-earth"' started by Prince Ashitaka, Feb 2, 2018.

  1. Prince Ashitaka

    Prince Ashitaka Member

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    Just wondering are the stories in the History of Middle Earth canon?

    In the Book of Lost Tales, we have Eriol who travels to Tol Eressea. Did this really happen? Wouldn't the Valar be extremely angry for outsiders to come to Valinor?
     
  2. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    My short answer: no, not as I define Tolkien canon anyway -- for me, only Tolkien-published material, and the map Tolkien worked on with Pauline Baynes, constitutes canon.

    And I would guess that most folk do not consider the Eriol tales canon -- for the purpose of this sentence anyway, canon meaning "internally true" or (so to speak) "actually happened within Middle-earth history".

    Very generally speaking: the Eriol/Elfwine idea (that a mortal mariner arrives in Tol Eressea and ultimately helps facilitate the transmission of the tales to the modern world) seems to have endured into the later 1950s (after The Lord of the Rings was published), but in my opinion this notion was eventually superseded by the Numenorean/Bilbo transmission.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018

  3. Prince Ashitaka

    Prince Ashitaka Member

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    Thanks for the clarification. I didn't think the story would have been canon
     
  4. Azrubêl

    Azrubêl Drúadan

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    Depends wot you mean by that, don't it! The Histories have this structure:

    I. Christopher Tolkien is editor and narrator, largely talking biographically about the development of Tolkien's world.
    II. The content consists of pieces of Tolkien's world at various stages of development, very extensive but not complete or consistent, so not canon.
    III. And then Christopher Tolkien makes notes and comments, often in ways that provide new insight into Tolkien's canon material.

    So, I think the answer is that the stories as presented aren't canon, but there is a lot of canon material that exists in the Histories, which isn't discussed in the Silmarillion or anywhere else.
     
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  5. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    I'd add that the errors Christopher discovered in the published LOTR were taken into account, and the results incorporated in the Corrected Edition. So in that sense, parts of the Histories have become "canon".

    Of course, more errors have been discovered subsequently, so "canon" is a flexible concept. Plus, I believe some of the "corrections" are themselves errors, so the definitive edition of LOTR has yet to appear. IMO.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
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  6. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    It’s convenient to define canonicity in ways that meet private agendas. One online source wants to define Silmarillion as canonical, even though Christopher Tolkien later wrote that it had errors. CJRT also noted that after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, his father occasionally rejected lines of development that conflicted with the published tale. I note that JRRT revised The Hobbit to fit the narrative in LotR.

    However, what JRR Tolkien wrote and published during his own lifetime is material he oversaw himself. To me, that comprises canon: author-produced, author-vetted, author-approved.

    When I first read The Lord of the Rings, Ace Books had published an unauthorized version of Tolkien’s trilogy in the United States: it seems there was a legal loophole by which they were able to do this without Allen & Unwin’s being able to stop them. Ballentine Books published an authorized paperback version, and on the back was a disclaimer bearing Tolkien’s distinctive signature:
    “This paperback edition, and no other has been published with my consent and co-operation. Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase it, and no other.”​
    What a living author published would seem to me “canon”; all other material is of necessity distilled and edited from notes and drafts. Christopher Tolkien remarks on how difficult it is to rectify all the differences and contradictions among the various tellings of the older stories, and I think in publishing Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and now Fall of Gondolin, he has largely focused on telling the tales rather than making all the moving pieces and parts fit snugly together.

    That doesn’t mean that Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, Fall of Gondolin, or History of Middle-earth, Unfinished Tales, and Silmarillion are not insightful and instructive toward describing and “filling out” Tolkien’s legendarium: quite the contrary! But they are not “canon” in the sense that points are unarguable merely because they were published, because there are often two, three, or even more tellings of the tale. The most notorious of these are the various backstories for Galadriel and Celeborn. The original one, the one most strongly reflected in the The Lord of the Rings, is that Galadriel rebelled against the Valar along with the rest of the Noldor, but fought against Fëanor and his followers when they attacked the quays of Alqualondë and murdered her mother’s kinfolk, the Teleri of Alqualondë; and for one reason or another – either because she was herself a ringleader in the Rebellion of the Noldor (the version I like best and the earliest) or because she was too proud to accept penance in order to return to Aman – she was banned from returning into the West. Another version is that she returned to Middle-earth at the same time but separately from the rest of the Noldor; and yet another is that she returned before the Rebellion of the Noldor. Likewise, Celeborn was a noble among the Sindar of Doriath, then a kinsman of Thingol’s, then a noble of the Teleri of Eldamar, and finally a kinsman of Olwë’s (and thus of Thingol’s). Another well-known series of revisions is the exact lineage of Gil-galad: the currently tendency is to credit Finwë > Finarfin > Angrod > Orodreth > Gil-galad; but there are other versions, too. There are unresolved timeline problems in the First Age. The list goes on and on: I’ve never compiled my own list nor seen any else’s compilation of narrative conflicts. JRR Tolkien tried for many years to resolve differences among his various narratives, but alas, without success. Christopher Tolkien has given up the attempt, too: and that is just as well, for he has completed editing his father’s three great stories of the First Age.

    And really, it’s fitting: there are all sorts of narrative conflicts in every legendarium: the Olympians, the Nordic myths, Egyptians; and although I am not personally familiar with them, my friends who are tell me they appear in Indian (Vedic and Hindu) mythology, in (Han) Chinese mythology, and in various New World Indian myth cycles. To me, that just makes Tolkien’s seem that more real, at least as mythic “history”.

    It certainly doesn’t conflict with what’s published in The Lord of the Rings, often clarifying or expounding upon themes and ideas presented there. It’s difficult to not accept the terrible Oath of Fëanor, the subsequent Prophecy of the North, the three Kinslayings of the Elves, the Leap of Beren, Glorfindel’s battle with the Balrog in Cassegrain, Elwing’s leaping into the sea with the Silmaril in the Nauglamír upon her breast, and so on.

    Tolkien Estate has appointed the husband-wife team Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull to edit new editions of The Lord of the Rings. (Hammond is currently Chapin Librarian at Williams College.) They have done so in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien, who is as I write aged 93 (May the hair on his toes never fall out!), who seems to have exercised final approval on a number of small but sometimes substantive changes to The Lord of the Rings. These changes and their reasons for them are thoroughly documented. The goal is to ultimately produce a critical edition of the book.

    That doesn’t negate your argument at all, Squint-eyed Southerner. I prefer the tighter fit, but it is different from the version published in Tolkien’s lifetime. Tolkien’s son and heir of his literary heritage has tried to correct errors his father noticed but failed to correct (or in his view, would have noticed and corrected). Because I concur with him, I suppose I must admit to being not quite purist in this regard, but rather only nearly so.

    ───◊───

    (TTF members note: This is the main line of a thread begun the same day by Prince Ashitaka, “Is the Silmarillion canon?”. There is a similar, longer, earlier thread, “Silmarillion - To be taken as authority?” begun January 2001 by Thorin.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
  7. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    For myself -- with respect to the author-published books corrected by the amazing scholars Hammond and Scull (corrected even in concert with the advice of Christopher Tolkien himself) -- these are not canon.

    My Vanyar are mostly dark-haired ;)
     
  8. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    Jesus was no son of God, therefore devine, for 400 or so years, trust me, in 400 years the History of Middle Earth will be canonized :) or at least seen as Apocrypha...
     
  9. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    Excuse me?



    CL
     
  10. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    It was not until the year 325 during the Council of Nicea that Jesus was decleared Son of God and therefore Holy..., by a narrow margin though... also the Books of the Bible were defined and approved there (Christian Canon), I think the Middle Earth Cycle will be Canon in 300 years too :)
     
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  11. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    Wait, really? I need to brush up on my Church history...and I'm Catholic!


    Thanks for the history

    CL
     
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  12. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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