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Silmarillion - To be taken as authority?

GuardianRanger

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I went to Miriam-Webster to look up canon:

[Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard] a : an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture b : the authentic works of a writer c : a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works <the canon of great literature>
(There were other definitions, but this was the best, I think, for this thread.)

Going by what's been discussed so far, we could say that:

canon = The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

non-canon = The Silmarillion, the History of Middle Earth, and anything else I have unintentionally ommitted.

It seems there is no denying that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are universally accepted as definitive.

However, to a varying degree, The Silmarillion and the History of Middle Earth have a high degree of validity. It's just that JRRT passed before they could be published. His passing is where we draw the line on canon. Would they have been published had he lived longer? Did he even want them published? Maybe that's where the differing of opinions comes into play.

According to the definition, we could surmise that all of the works (where they have not been added to by Tolkien's son) are canon because they were at one time written by him.

I hope this isn't off topic.....I'm just trying to explore the realm of Middle Earth and see it from the big picture of JRRT's mind. Personally, I accept his son's editing and writing; as if it were not for him, I never would have read any of the other books.

My initial querey was because I saw the HoME boxed set listed as JRRT and Christopher Tolkien. I didn't know how much of the writing was JRRT and how much was Christopher Tolkien.
 

Grond

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Originally posted by GuardianRanger
I went to Miriam-Webster to look up canon:

(There were other definitions, but this was the best, I think, for this thread.)

Going by what's been discussed so far, we could say that:

canon = The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

non-canon = The Silmarillion, the History of Middle Earth, and anything else I have unintentionally ommitted.

It seems there is no denying that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are universally accepted as definitive.

However, to a varying degree, The Silmarillion and the History of Middle Earth have a high degree of validity. It's just that JRRT passed before they could be published. His passing is where we draw the line on canon. Would they have been published had he lived longer? Did he even want them published? Maybe that's where the differing of opinions comes into play.

According to the definition, we could surmise that all of the works (where they have not been added to by Tolkien's son) are canon because they were at one time written by him.

I hope this isn't off topic.....I'm just trying to explore the realm of Middle Earth and see it from the big picture of JRRT's mind. Personally, I accept his son's editing and writing; as if it were not for him, I never would have read any of the other books.

My initial querey was because I saw the HoME boxed set listed as JRRT and Christopher Tolkien. I didn't know how much of the writing was JRRT and how much was Christopher Tolkien.
Welcome GuardianRanger!! I haven't run into you here before but welcome your insightful input. One large problem with the published works (all of them) is the conflicting accounts of many different events of which the author wrote. We cannot consider all of them canon because there are so many different versions and we (and Christopher Tolkien) cannot be absolutely certain as to which idea (writing) was the final one.

A perfect example of this it he story of the Sun and the Moon. The Silmarillion account is described as the "Flat World Version". It describes the original Ea, as flat and that it was first illuminated by the Lamps and then the Two Trees. After the Darkening of Valinor, the two fruits of the Two Trees become the Sun and the Moon. Ea is not converted into a "round world" until the Drowning of the Adunie (Numenor).

In Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien completely rewrites the Ainulindale to incorporate a Round World Ea "from its inception". CT explains that this is done in an attempt to bring the world of Middle-earth out of a "mystical realm" and to try and place it in our own world aka real world Physics. (Last sentence is my words and not CT). Who knows what J. R. R. T. would have finally decided had he lived to publish the text. I would hope, he would have left the "Flat World version" because it is so much more beautiful to me.

I encourage you to get the last 3 books of HoMe first. They are the one's that give you the most radical changes (IMHO) from the published Sil. There are instances of three and at times even four different versions of the Ainulindale. All three are well worth the read.
 

Walter

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Originally posted by Grond
After doing another year's worth of reading and research, I'm not sure I'm willing to call anything in Tolkien's writings canon anymore. You find things in so many of the HoMe that are seeking to bring his First and Second Age writings in line with his published works. His attempts were great but I don't think I give the Silmarillion canon status. There are two many alternative writings that have been revealed in UT and HoMe for us to know which were his "final" views.
I could not agree more...
Originally posted by GuardianRanger
My initial querey was because I saw the HoME boxed set listed as JRRT and Christopher Tolkien. I didn't know how much of the writing was JRRT and how much was Christopher Tolkien.
Christopher only comments his father's writings and in the text different font-sizes are used for J.R.R.'s and Christopher's parts.
 

Gil-Galad

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Originally posted by Thorin
. I think that Sil can be trusted as a definitive source along side Hobbit and LoTR.

Any comments?
I doubt about that.There are some things which Tolkien changed later and the question of my parentega is one of them.
I think it can't be the best source because it wasn't published while Tolkien was alive.If he had been alive,he would have changed lots of facts,things etc. and that would have been made in the process of the development of the book.
 

Tar-Elenion

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Canon:
The Lord of the Rings, The Road Goes Ever On, A Guide to the Names in LotR, along with The Hobbit and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (both of which need to be looked at in the context of how they were written).

Originally posted by Grond
A perfect example of this it he story of the Sun and the Moon. The Silmarillion account is described as the "Flat World Version". It describes the original Ea, as flat and that it was first illuminated by the Lamps and then the Two Trees. After the Darkening of Valinor, the two fruits of the Two Trees become the Sun and the Moon. Ea is not converted into a "round world" until the Drowning of the Adunie (Numenor).
It is interesting that a pre-existing Sun and Moon are 'presumed' by LotR and The Hobbit.
 

Walter

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Declaring - ex cathedra - which ones of the published works are "Canon" and which not, is one thing. Comprehending the enormous complexity and the various aspects of the tasks Tolkien commited himself to, when he was creating his "Mythology" another.

IMHO the whole "Canon" - issue makes not much sense. To me it seems much more important and interesting, to gain some more insight from the various different approaches Tolkien took on a certain issue, than to learn - from a third party - which statements, out of several, represent "the final word" or "the ultimative truth" on that matter and which ones not...
 

Lhunithiliel

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Hmmm. canon, you say is / is not the Silmarillion!:rolleyes:

I am not even 1/3 -rd as close to Tolkien as you are, for Tolkien is new to me.
Yet, I don't think that a mind like his should be chained in terms as canon! And neither of his books, too!

If he wanted to write a canon, I am sure he could do it perfectly well!
BUT! I doubt whether .... NO! I'm sure that it wouldn't have been "Tolkien-style" any more!

All that I have been able to read so far from the HoME-series and the UT, has proved to me that yes, the Silmarillion could have been much more complete and could have had much more information included... But I can't say that it isn't a book one should not take into consideration JUST and ONLY for the fact that it had not been published when J.R.R.T died!

It happened to me that I first read LOTR and after I had read it three times in three successive months, I knew I loved the story, but I could feel some information missing or/and unclear, information that was in another book.... So I found the Silmarillion... and there I found those pieces I needed to get the "picture" of the LOTR-events.

Even the LOTR Appendices cannot give all the necessary information about things hinted at or said about - things dating back to the First and Second Age and much more before... things that had influence on some events, described in the LOTR....
So, if one is to understand better the events in the Hobbit and the LOTR, s/he must have even before that read the Simarillion!

BUT!!!! IF one wants to better understand the Simarillion, s/he MUST read the HoME series. The more I go deeper into them, the more I'm convinced in this.
For me, personally, the HoME is the source where one can discover the magic, called Tolkien!

And what if there are diferences! The important thing is to understand this imaginary world better.
Can the Silmarillion be considered a "canon" without the Athrabeth then?
Or, how could one understand Elrond-Arwen conflict and grief without the Silmarillion...?

So, IMHO, every work by J.R.R.Tolkien should be taken in all its importance and all the works - as one whole large story,
WHICH, perhaps could be called a "canon" (although I hate thinking of Tolkien as a canon-writer!).

P.S. I understand that the people who started this thread as a continuation from another discussion will say that when one needs to be sure about the reference needed in a discussion, debate, in an essay etc... one needs to accept this or another book as canon, as the ultimate source...
In occasions like those, I'd just take any of his works as equally valid.
 

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Any new opinions here?

Do you always go with Tolkien's latest word, or only do so when it seems to fit in best with earlier stuff? Or do you pick whichever you like best in your imagination?

Do you take it as fact that the Sun was in the sky when the elves woke up?

Did Ambarto burn on the ship?

Is Orodreth Finarfin's son? ;)

Did Avari creep into Beleriand in the First age, and merge with Nandor in Eriador?

Does everything published after Tolkien's death have equal validity?

This is all still overwhelming sometimes. Right now I am starting to give more thought to the information in Myth's Transformed. My first inclination is to go with the making of the sun and the moon as presented in the published Silmarillion, but is this because it makes most sense to do so or because it is what I knew for several months before reading otherwise?

I view the published Silmarillion as a incentive to get people to read HoME. I know it does not have this fuction for everyone. But for me it is a starting point, and a thing that may be of little use once someone has read HoME for a few years and formed their own version as they see fit.

All of this can be so complicated I sometimes wonder if I'll ever have a good enough understanding of it all to have a Silmarillion in my mind that seems to be the most authoritive version to me. I've met people here at TTF who have been reading this stuff for years (and the HoME as it was published) and still don't seem to know much of the history of the writings of the First Age or if they do they never speak of it, and maybe some even less so than new readers like myself or Inderjit. I wonder, for those who are long time readers... what stopped you? Is it just too much for most people to take in and process? If so, does that leave you just going with the Silmarillion that CT put together for lack of being able to do otherwise?

I guess everyone has to find their own way with something like this. I find it frustrating at times, and am interesting in how others view HoME and The Silmarillion.
 

Inderjit S

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Nom, The funny thing with two of the things you mentioned (The Burnings of Losgar and Orodreth's parentage) two were mentioned in the writing of the Annals of Aman/Beleriand or Quenta Silmarillion of HoME 10 and or 11, though of course Orodreth’s parentage didn't reach it's final form for until 1965. There is a reference to the burning of one of the twin brothers in the Annals of Aman. (HoME 10). Why didn't C.T makes these changes? Well because Tolkien never tells us for certain which son of Feanor's sons is burnt, though he says it is one of the twins, and more probable that C.T didn't want to introduce such a radical story change when in all previous Quenta's none died. (An interesting point in 'Of Maeglin', (HoME 11) a 'late' essay is that only five sons of Feanor are mentioned, maybe he later conceived that both were killed, but I really doubt this). Why not include the story of Galadriel and Celeborn coming from Aman? He alludes to it in several letters, several essays (Of Dwarves and Men, Shibboleth of Feanor, Of Galadriel and Celeborn, which is a series of essays put together, like Myths Transformed) though all are later ideas. But this contradicts with the principal story of Maeglin that Elves didn't marry with such close kin and the info give in Laws and Customs (HoME 10) but more importantly information given in the Appendix about Celeborn being a Sindarin Elf, or one native to M-E. LoTR, is canon, and even though Tolkien was certain on a change in their story, he never gets the chance to alter it. Which you wish to believe is, of course, entirely up to you. What about the inclusion (or non-inclusion) of several Finweans, such as Argon, Findis and Lalwende? Including them would not contradict the text (except to alter things like 'Fingolfin had three sons' etc) but I think that C.T didn't include them because of the lateness with which they entered the text (Finwe's daughters didn't enter until the Annals of Aman) and they appear to be more fully treated until the Shibboleth of Feanor, and here Argon first appears to. (Though his existence somewhat contradicts the statement that Fingolfin and Finarfin's host met no Ork's here they were attacked by Lammoth and Argon played a heroic part in repelling them and that Turgon was the tallest of the Noldor, since Argon is named as being the tallest of his brothers, but both of these esp. the later could be easily altered)

But for me, such discrepancies as mentioned above can be considered as 'true' and can be included in a revision of the Silmarillion (And also other things like the Gil Galad being son of Orodreth.) Plus other info. can be gleamed such as more info on the house of Beor (Grey Annals (HoME 11) and Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (HoME 10) Hador and many other things in other essays. Of course the only idea I have mentioned that is exempt from this is the one of Galadriel and Celeborn.

We then get to the ultimate problem, the whole problem with the Sun and Moon. Well, as Tar-Elenion hints in a post down the page, there are references to a 'pre-existing' Sun and Moon in canonical works. (i.e. in Gimli's song about Durin 'No stain yet on the moon was seen') and though the changes in terms of Sun+Moon's pre-existence were not yet of 'Myths Transformed' Level, it still shows the existence of a pre-existing Sun+Moon in canonical works, plus the fact that Tolkien attributed the 'Sun+Moon coming from the Two Trees as being Numenorean myths. Men are said to awoke much further back in most of Tolkien's later works. But i think clinging to such a idea would be suitable since if the Quenta Silmarillion was a Numenorean work it would have to include the Mannish mistakes, though maybe it could be mentioned somewhere that this was a mistake on the part of the Numenoreans.

So to conclude, the 'Published Silmarillion' IMO doesn't take precedence over U.T/HoME, the Silmarillion is a jotting of C.T's take on what was sensible to include or not include everyone has different verdicts, on what they choose to take, personally I'm for Tolkien's last word on matters, and though others aren't for this, I wish TO GOD that they don't use the weak argument that 'Tolkien could have changed it again' WELL HE DIDN'T! (not that this a snipe aimed at anyone in particular) but IMO, there is lots of info. in the latter three HoME volumes that can give new, non-contradictory info. and also several mistakes made by C.T that need to be altered.

Thank you. :)

and still don't seem to know much of the history of the writings of the First Age or if they do they never speak of it, and maybe some even less so than new readers like myself or Inderjit
Not to be arrogant, Nom but I think me and you are two of the most knowledgeable (Not 'best' there is a difference between being a good scholar and knowledgeable one and even if we may be, or may be considered by some as the former I really don't want to discuss that) people on matters of Tolkien in this forum, in that we know more then a lot of people. As I said I'm not showing off or whatever (But how you choose to interpret this is up to you, of course) I'm just stating what I believe in what many may attest to be as being the 'truth' we DO know a lot. If anyone wants to contest that or state that I am coming off here as a arrogant fool then do so, I don't mind your opinion is your own) and I think as 'new' readers we do know a lot and we can be on par, maybe with some more experience readers, I don't know, but remember our opinions count as much as theirs or anyone’s who has enough knowledge on Tolkien to comment (Not that I'm trying to put anyone down, or say people who don't know intricate facts about Tolkien aren't real fans etc or opinions are futile just that you should get hold of all or a lot of the facts before commenting, because then your opinion will be more of worth in terms of forwarding the discussion. No disrespect to anyone, I am just stating what I view would constitute what I think would be a good discussion. Thank you.
 

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I agree The Silmarillion is not authoritve, but until someone knows better, what are they to do?

And Inderjit, I'm not saying we don't know anything, but we have much yet to learn, and it looks to me like you have a pretty good idea of what you think The Silmarillion could be instead of what CT published. Maybe I should go visit the project over at BD... surely I'll learn from it as you have. But what I find odd is that people who've read all the stuff in HoME still take The Silmarillion. I am not sure why they do it.

But who can blame people for taking The Silmarillion as authoritive in their mind? It is all fiction afterall (or is it? ;)), and it was mostly what JRRT did write. It is also much easier thing to do than figure it out yourself. For example I probably do not have the intelligence or memory to form my own idea of a Silmarillion based on Tolkiens last words about tings. That and it was published way before the later writings and people already loved the tales before they read differently.

But there will never be an authoritive Silmarillion :( because what Tolkien wrote was always changing and he did not leave us a final form. No one else can make an authoritve Silmarillion, only one that is deemed closer to what authoritive might have been. But The Silmarillion must be more authoritive on some points than others. How could not be authoritive that Beren and Luthien rescued a silmaril? That Gondolin fell? That the Noldor rebelled and fought against Morgoth? Earendil reached Valinor with a silmaril? All the things mentioned in LotR and The Hobbit about the first age are authoritive, and we can trust that in the published Silmarillion is a very good general idea of what did happen in the First Age because it shares so much in common with all other versions. It is a matter of us not knowing the smaller details I think.
 

Inderjit S

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The Silmarillion. I am not sure why they do it.
Becasue the Silmarillion is the book they grew up with? Personal opinion? Or obeying the much more widespread view that the Published Silmarillion took precdence over HoME. Maybe a little bit of all three.

It is all fiction afterall (or is it?
That is a opinion and therfore problematic and questionable.
;) :D

Here are a few good essays or discussions on canon you may like:

These are articles by Micheal Martinez.

Is Your Canon on the Loose?

A Funny Thing That Happened on The Way to the Canon

In Feanor's Footsteps

And these discussions from the B-D:

A Funny Thing That Happened on The Way to the Canon: B-D Discussion

And;

What Should Be Changed in a New silmarillion?
 

Melko Belcha

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In the Forward to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings Tolkien says that there are mistakes in the book. In Letters Tolkien talks about things he wish he could have changed in The Hobbit if it had been planned to be a part of his larger mythology.

So if the author himself says that there are errors then can you take The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings as being completely correct? I say no because Tolkien never says what the mistakes in LotR are. Are they in the story itself? Is it in the history that is put into the story? Is it in the Appendixes? Just as with The Silmarillion we never fully know what Tolkien would have abandoned, reworked, or completely re-written.

I don't think anyone could say what is canon and what is not, not even Tolkien himself.
 

Mimzy

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Hmmm I would say it's probably 85% canonical. Most of the history and stuff is probably mostly how Tolkien would have written it, and aside from a couple chapters, none of it is stuff Chris made up, but what a tragedy that Tolkien didn't live long enough to finish it himself!

I would say it's imperfect but close enough to be considered reliable.
 

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I think there's a note on this in UT (the chapter on Galadriel, maybe?) where CT states that in the first edition of LOTR, Finrod was named as the person who eventually became Finarfin and the son was named Felagund. JRRT amended this in all subsequent versions of LOTR.
It's a neat tale. To add a bit.

Tolkien published that Finrod was the father of Inglor Felagund and Galadriel > although the name Inglor does not appear in the First Edition of The Lord of the Rings as the name of Felagund, Inglor was Felagund's name in the early 1950s Silmarillion "phase" (noting that Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod interestingly remains in the author-revised, second edition).

When the linguistic history/scenario changed and Tolkien came to review his nomenclature, at one point he thought that Finrod should not have a Sindarin name, as he had remained in Aman. So Tolkien changed his name to Finarfin and changed Inglor to Finrod.

Yet Tolkien ultimately considered *Finarfin a "Sindarization" anyway!

*his Quenya name was Finwe Arafinwe . . . son of Finwe.

🐾
 

Gothmog

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Just to add my point of view, The Silmarillion was the definitive Canonical history of Middle-earth when it was first published as it was the Only history. Then came HoME and the Sil moved from being Canon to being the best Starting point for a journey through the history or a discussion about it. The reason that I say it is the best starting point is that I doubt that any who have read through HoME have not read the Sil and there are many who have read the Sil but not HoME.
 

Grond

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Just to add my point of view, The Silmarillion was the definitive Canonical history of Middle-earth when it was first published as it was the Only history. Then came HoME and the Sil moved from being Canon to being the best Starting point for a journey through the history or a discussion about it. The reason that I say it is the best starting point is that I doubt that any who have read through HoME have not read the Sil and there are many who have read the Sil but not HoME.
Oh no!!! I disagree. The Sil could never be canon because it was edited and "best guesses' were made by Christopher Tolkien. I love the narrative from Sil over any of JRRT's other works, including LOTR but, since it was not published with JRRT's seal of approval, it is not Canon.
 

Gothmog

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Oh no!!! I disagree. The Sil could never be canon because it was edited and "best guesses' were made by Christopher Tolkien. I love the narrative from Sil over any of JRRT's other works, including LOTR but, since it was not published with JRRT's seal of approval, it is not Canon.
When it was first published, it was the only source of information about the creation and earlier ages of Arda and therefore most considered it canon. I remember a number of discussions and debates on this very forum about this matter as I am sure you do also. However, with the publishing of the HoME it became clear that The Sil. was not the clear history that many thought it to be and so became the best starting point for discussions concerning the History of Arda in the light of all the extra information available.
 

Galin

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Canon: The Lord of the Rings, The Road Goes Ever On, A Guide to the Names in LotR, along with The Hobbit and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (both of which need to be looked at in the context of how they were written).
We are of like minds on this issue. In short, author-published works. I would only add the Pauline Baynes map, as Tolkien worked on it (as I know you know, even though you haven't posted here in a while).

And in my admittable madness, I take out "Guide To Names/Nomenclature", only because it was not intended (unless I've missed something here), by Tolkien himself, to be widely published, if intended for the minds of translators. A fine distinction I admit. And perhaps even Tolkien would have had no problem with wide publication of these notes as they stand -- I doubt he would have, actually.

But even if so, I like to draw a line between "Tolkien-published" with respect to his general readership.

🐾
 

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I think some of JRRT‘s later writings must be taken as being those of an increasingly exhausted and frustrated writer. Even after he had retired from his Oxford professorship – a chair, not many at the university at the time! – he was kept from his “heart’s desire”, the Silmarillion, by quite a few obligations to several publishers of “professional” texts, as I believe I remember. Added to that the increasing infirmities of being between his late sixties and early eighties (and Edith was three years older than he was, as we all know), he just wasn’t making headway. And he had quite severely cut down his own “niggle room” with LoTR especially (which he my have resented subconsciously, as I suggested elsewhere).

So, he did some relatively isolated revisions to some texts, but either did not consider their chain reactions down countless strands of storytelling yet – or if he did, it may have frustrated him even more. Let’s not forget that there is a severe break between the two BoLT volumes and the rest of HoME. Some of the late revisions he had written down would have come close to this earlier break, I would assume they might even have affected LoTR, leading to a third edition at some point (and an additionally revision to TH? Weren’t there different versions of later Harry Potter books for children and adults? So, an adult TH as a new version?).

As a conclusion I would think that any revision, no matter how “young” and thus latest-writings it may be, that would clearly lead to a massive upheaval in the mythology (we suddenly have BoLT volumes one though – what – ten? eleven? Even twelve?) ought be considered as dissatisfied musings about isolated events or constellations that are definitely square pegs not fitting thousands of pages of round holes, and the writing of the square holes … oh dear, here I go again about him being granted Elros’s lifespan … 😬

(That would make the publishing date for a definitive Silmarillion, with correctly revised Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, 2392 …)
 

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When it was first published, it was the only source of information about the creation and earlier ages of Arda and therefore most considered it canon. I remember a number of discussions and debates on this very forum about this matter as I am sure you do also. However, with the publishing of the HoME it became clear that The Sil. was not the clear history that many thought it to be and so became the best starting point for discussions concerning the History of Arda in the light of all the extra information available.
I think we are agreeing. 🤩
 

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