“As has now been fully recorded, my father greatly desired to publish ‘The Silmarillion’ together with The Lord of the Rings. I say nothing of it’s practicability at the time, nor do I make any guesses at the subsequent fate of such a much longer combined work, quadrilogy or tetralogy, or at the different courses that my father might then have taken – for the further development of ‘The Silmarillion’ itself, the history of the Elder Days, would have been arrested (pg 5).“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! We shift gears a little this week now that the Silmarillion is finished and jump into The Book of Lost Tales.
This week I wanted to review the Introduction, but in doing so, I wanted to check Christopher Tolkien’s words (John’s son and the editor of all of Tolkien’s estate since the publication of The Lord of the Rings). So this week will be a combination of analysis and opinion, even more so than any previous essay I have posted.
I’m going to cover two distinct points Christopher covers in the Introduction (there is more there, but for the purposes and desires of this blog, this is the focus). First, the difficulty of ‘The Silmarillion’ and John’s earlier works, and the novelistic approach versus the historical method through the evolution of ‘The Silmarillion’ from its earlier iterations versus Christopher’s edited publication. This last point is the tread that will bring us through the rest of the book and beyond.
“The Silmarillion is commonly said to be a ‘difficult’ book, needing explaination and guidance on how to ‘approach’ it; and in this it is contrasted to The Lord of the Rings (pg 1).“
In this quote, Christopher is saying what everyone else is already thinking; this is why I chose to do a Blind Read with these books because they are notoriously tricky. The Silmarillion begins with a story similar to the Book of Genesis, which was difficult to swallow after concluding one of the most popular stories in generations. “This produced a sense of outrage – in one case formulated to me in the words ‘It’s like the Old Testament’ (pg 2)!”
Which this book is – at the beginning. Once Tolkien moves beyond the archaic origins of the beings and the world of Ëa, the language softens a bit because it becomes more attuned to exposition instead of an elegiac homily.
I contend that it’s Christopher who makes the language so difficult. He is the son of a language professor and is part of the English academic elite. His language is not the same as the language of the masses, which made the book (even when “stories are being told” like Beren and Luthien) considerably more difficult, as opposed to Tolkien’s The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.
That being said, we get an introduction to the original vision of the history of Middle-earth in “The Book of Lost Tales.”
“The letter of 1963 quoted above shows my father pondering the mode in which the legends of the Elder Days might be presented. The original mode, that of The Book of Lost Tales, in which a Man, Eriol, comes after a great voyage over the ocean to the island where the Elves dwell and learns their history from their own lips, had (by degrees) fallen away (pg 5).”
Tolkien wanted to tell his history, but he knew the difficulty of writing it as a historical book instead of a novelistic approach. But it was the novelistic approach with which he started. Tolkien began writing his histories before anything else (and the myth that the language developed and the book written to display that language is a misnomer. In the development of The Book of Lost Tales, we see the evolution of that language as he develops it over time.) in 1917. Tolkien wrote the history as if it were an oral tradition, which would alleviate some of the dry and dull exposition needed. It would stop the feeling of it reading “like the Old Testament (pg 2).“
So instead of a dry history, we get the Human, Eriol, traveling to the Cottage of Lost Play and meeting Elves (they were Gnomes in 1917, though still called Noldor) who gather around a fire, much like you would expect Hobbits to do and regale Eriol with their story.
That makes The Book of Lost Tales interesting, even though it is a rehashing of The Silmarillion. We get to see the evolution of the design and approach of the work and how Christopher decided to edit it and publish it after his father’s death.
Christopher mentions that his father wanted this story told. The fact that we have so much material that calls back to The Lord of the Rings proves that Tolkien wrote to make the world whole. To be more than what Christopher calls “the mise-en-scéne of the story (pg 7),” Tolkien wanted people to know that there was history and agency behind the action in the book. That history led the characters to where they are when we pick up the events in The Fellowship of the Ring.
But does Christopher take it too far? On the contrary, it looks to me as though he uses his father’s platform to carve out a space for himself: “There are explorations to be conducted in this world with perfect right quite irrespective of literary-critical considerations; and it is proper to attempt to comprehend its structure in its largest extent, from the myth of its Creation.“
I agree with what Christopher is saying here. If he didn’t take the mantle over, there wouldn’t be The Silmarillion, and the world of Middle-earth would have stopped at The Lord of the Rings. However, what he did by taking things over was indelibly stamp his prejudice on the material.
Would The Silmarillion have been better as a story as it is in The Book of Lost Tales? Would that have garnered a more significant audience if it were a more accessible tale?
These are all questions I hope to get a better answer for through the next couple of books. Both The Book of Lost Tales, part 1 and The Book of Lost Tales, part 2, are the earlier iterations of The Silmarillion through the storytelling perspective. So these Blind Reads will be much more analytical than previous Blogs as we follow the creative process of Tolkien as both he and Christopher work to uncover the definitive history of Middle Earth.
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, Conclusion
“In all the days of the Third Age, after the fall of Gil-Galad, Master Elrond abode in Imladris, and he gathered there many Elves, and other folk of wisdom and power from among all the kindreds of Middle-earth, and he preserved through many lives of Men the memory of all that had been fair; and the house of Elrond was a refuge for the weary and oppressed, and a treasury of good councel and wise lore. In that house were harboured the Heirs of Isildur, in childhood and old age, because of the kinship of their blood with Elrond himself, and because he knew in his wisdom that one should come of their line to whom a great part was appointed in the last deeds of that Age. And until that time came the shards of Elendil’s sword were given into the keeping of Elrond, when the days of the Dúnedain darkened and they became a wandering people (pg 296).”
Welcome back to another Blind read! This week we conclude the Silmarillion as Tolkien brings us up to date with the events of “The Lord of the Rings.”
We left off last week finding out how Minas Morgul came into being, and it was there, in the tower of sorcery, the last King of Gondor was held prisoner. He rode to the gates of Minas Morgul and challenged the Morgul lord to single combat but was betrayed and taken captive and never seen again.
From that time forward, the horse lords of Gondor formed the Rohirrim, and the Stewards took over Gondor. These events led to the quote which opens this essay. Tolkien goes on to tell us that of the three Elven Rings of Power, Elrond took the Ring of Sapphire, Galadriel took the Ring of Adamant, and the Red Ring remained hidden, “and none save Elrond and Galadriel and Círdan knew to whom it had been committed (pg 297).”
What the Elves understood was that if someone found the Ruling Ring (otherwise known as the One Ring), then “the powers of the Three must then fail and all things maintained by them must fade, and so the Elves should pass into the twilight and the Dominion of Men begin (pg 297).“
The Elves passing into the twilight is what happens at the end of The Return of the King. The age of Elves had passed, and the ring’s power was gone. Many things didn’t change in the world, but Elves did leave once the One Ring was destroyed.
The only way that could come to pass is if Sauron found the Ring, or if someone else found it and destroyed it. Once Sauron woke and sought the Ring, a war against the Dark Lord was inevitable. But Elves, dwarves, and Men were not alone in their fight against Sauron: “Even as the first shadows were felt in Mirkwood there appeared in the west of Middle-earth the Istari, whom Men called Wizards (pg 298).“
These Wizards were Maiar, second only to the Valar, who sent them to Middle-earth from Valinor to assist in the fight against Sauron. “Chief among them were those whom the Elves called Mithrandir and Curunír, but Men in the North named Gandalf and Saruman (pg 298).“
Radagast was another Istari whom you might remember from The Hobbit movies, who came to Middle-earth at this time. “Radagast was friend of all beasts and birds, but Curunír went most among Men, and he was subtle in speech and skilled in all the devices of smithcraft. Mithrandir was closest in council with Elrond and the Elves (pg 298).“
The shadow continued to grow in Mirkwood, where Sauron returned to Middle-earth from Númenor. Mithrandir (Gandalf) was suspicious and went to Mirkwood and saw the signs, so he called the first White Council, “and therein were Elrond and Galadriel and Círdan, and other lords of the Eldar, and with them were Mithrandir and Curunír (pg 298).“
It was here that Curunír became chief of the council, and he “began to study the lore of the Rings of Power, their making and their history (pg 299).” It is here where Saruman began his fall from grace. The knowledge of the rings, and the study of them, corrupted him.
Gandalf went to Elrond and told him: “This is not one of the Ûliari, as many have long supposed. It is Sauron himself who has taken shape again and now grows apace (pg 299).”
Gandalf called for action against the Dark Lord. He asked that they move against him and try to capture or destroy him before he found the One Ring, “but Curunír spoke agianst him, and councelled them to wait yet and to watch (pg 299).“
They took his council, but they “were troubled, but none as yet percieved that Curunír had turned to dark thoughts and was already a traitor in heart: hor he desired that he and no other should find the Great Ring, so that he might wield it himself and order all the world to his will (pg 299-300).“
Saruman retreated to Isengard, and Elrond predicted to Gandalf that the Ring would be found again, which it was; “by a chance more strange than even Mithrandir had forseen. For it had been taken from Anduin long ere they sought it, being found by one of the small fisher-folk that dwelt by the River, ere the Kings failed in Gondor; and by its finder it was brought beyond search into dark hiding under the roots of the mountains (pg 301).“
Gollum had found the Ring. Tolkien spends the following few paragraphs describing the events of “The Lord of the Rings.”
The book ends with the revelation that Mithrandir “had long guarded the Red Ring of Fire (pg 302).” The third and final Ring of Power, entrusted to the Elves, was eventually given to Gandalf to assist in both hiding it and defeating Sauron.
It was also “in that time the last of the Noldor set sail from the Havens and left Middle-earth for ever. And the latest of all the Keepers of the Three Rings rode to the Sea, and Master Elrond took there the ship that Círdan had made ready. In the twilight of Autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of the Bent World fell away beneath it, and the winds of the round sky troubled it no more, and borne upon the high airs above the mists of the world it passed into the Ancient West, and an end was come for the Eldar of story and of song (pg 303).“
It is a beautiful and lyrical ending to a beautiful and lyrical book. There are no better words than Tolkien’s to close out the book.
Join me next week as we jump into “The Book of Lost Tales Volume 1!”
“I leapt from that ship because I believed in my heart that I was not yet worthy of it. I knew that somehow, my task here was not yet complete. And when I surfaced all I could do was swim and pray I had chosen wisely. I did not cross that bitter Ocean, onyl to drown now. And nor will I let you.”
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we conclude The Rings of Power and close up all the messy and misused storylines.
There will be heavy spoilers in this essay, so if you have not watched the episode or show yet, please stop now and head back to Amazon and watch it!
This episode finally reveals who Sauron is as well as one other major character in the mythology.
The show begins by having “the stranger” walking through the woods. He has been exiled from the wandering Hobbits (though they are not called that yet), and the mysterious and dangerous wanderers dressed in all white appear before him and all but tell him he is Sauron. Then, they use out-of-place magic to fool him, but the entire exchange doesn’t make sense.
First, let’s follow along with the show’s storyline and assume that this tall Stranger is, in fact, Sauron (he’s not, and we find out later who he is). It doesn’t make sense that Sauron wouldn’t know who he is at this point in history. He was already in Middle-earth from the end of the First age. The only time in Middle-earth’s history that it would make sense that Sauron might not know who he was (that never happened in any Tolkien I have read) was after the Drowning of Númenor, when he was cast down into the abyss, shed his mortal form and retreated to Barad-dûr. The fact that he shed his human form is the only factor in thinking he might not know who he was, so instantly, we see this Stranger is not Sauron.
What bothers me about this interaction is how lazy the writers were. Why would Sauron’s servants not know who he was? Especially servants who were this powerful in magic? Notwithstanding that there never were any magic users mentioned in Sauron’s entourage, these characters are just a means to an end to show the power of the Stranger and to show who he is, which is an Istari, otherwise known as a Wizard. Namely, this Stranger is who I thought he was all along: Gandalf the Gray.
It is Halbrand who turns out to be Sauron in disguise. I’m a little discouraged that I didn’t catch this sooner, but the writers changed the history so wholly to make it challenging to understand who he was, so I’ll give myself a little grace. Afterall, the whole point of this first season wasn’t to tell a wonderful story about Middle-earth, they wrote it to hide who Sauron was and to make a dramatic reveal.
To met he problem isn’t that Sauron turned out to be Halbrand. Sauron did, after all, disguise himself to influence the making of the Rings of Power. In the Silmarillion, he disguises himself as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, to control the Noldor Elves and influence them create the rings in the first place.
Elrond and Gil-Galad suspected Annatar was not who he said he was, so he left Lindon and went to Eregion, where they crafted the Rings. But, unfortunately, while they were making all the Rings of Power (not just the three for the Elves), Sauron retreated to Mount Doom and created the One Ring to rule them.
So the fact that the showrunners decided to change Sauron’s disguise from Annatar to Halbrand is acceptable. My problem comes in with how they introduced and framed him. Sauron is a master of deception, so much so, that he destroyed two different empires with influence alone (meaning that he didn’t raise an army against them).
But why was Sauron stranded on a raft? Do the showrunners want us to believe that he foresaw Galadriel jumping off her boat and swimming to a broken-down ship in the middle of the sea? And even if that was the case, there are far easier ways for him to ingratiate himself within the Elven culture.
Having Halbrand come up with such a soft cover as “King of the Southlands,” which was so easy to figure out “bloodline was broken,” is unlike Sauron. It makes him seem weak and lazy, which he is not.
Not to mention that there never was a human king in Middle-earth before Númenor. They were all traveling bands who were subjects of the Elven Kings.
The whole point of the entire show wasn’t to make an incredible Lord of the Rings show, but to hide the information about who Sauron was so they could have that reveal in the last episode. All the character’s motivations were to hide who he was, all the action was to hide who he was, and all the plot was to conceal Sauron’s true identity. I don’t mind that the showrunners wanted to change history, however, it doesn’t thrill me. The fact that they very obviously sat around a writing room and said they wanted the final reveal to be who Gandalf is and who Sauron is, then framed the rest of the show around that is just lazy.
This is why people don’t like the show. It’s not necessarily how they changed history because, without a doubt, this story is different from Tolkien’s. It’s not the show’s visuals because the special effects are spectacular. It’s how the writers decided that one event was enough to drive eight episodes. It’s how they took away the agency of every character to fit in with some big reveal (which was pretty lackluster).
I’m not sure if I’ll be watching the second season, if and when it comes out, but it’s no longer a Tolkien show, so there will not be another Blind Watch covering the events if there does turn out to be a second season.
Thank you all for reading, and join me next week as we complete The Silmarillion!
Wow, what a year that was! I did not get anywhere near where I wanted to go in a writing sense, as work and life stuff enveloped much of my time, but it’s time for a new year, and it’s time for new resolutions. I received a typewriter and a new notebook for Christmas, which has invigorated my creative juices, so it’s time to get to work and get to some of these books I’ve been sitting on!
Elsie Jones Adventures:
The first three of these were already published traditionally, but the contract is up, and the rights have reverted back to me. So I’m going to self-publish and finally get this series out. So expect the first two in the series this year.
If you didn’t know, The Elsie Jones Adventures is a Chapter Book series suitable for kids 5-12. They follow Elsie Jones as she discovers a mysterious library and each book in the secret library pulls her into the plotline of that book, and she goes on the adventure with the characters! The series is filled with action and humor, but it also has lessons to learn along the way.
In this first book, Elsie finds a mysterious library and enters “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. She meets some new friends and goes on a Pirating adventure, but also discovers there is a strange group trying to destroy the special books in the library. Follow along with her on an adventure to stop them!
In Elsie’s second adventure, she finds an old book named “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine, which transports her to Revolutionary Boston. She meets Ben Franklin and goes on a famous horse ride with Paul Revere, leading to a showdown at the house of a literary giant.
In Elsie’s Third adventure, she comes across “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas and goes on an adventure with The famous French Musketeers. This book is filled with mystery, adventure, and swashbuckling fun, but it is on this adventure that Elsie realizes more is going on in these adventurous worlds.
You can find and purchase all three of these stories here or wherever books are sold. What will be released this year are “Author Editions” of these first three books. I wasn’t very happy with the end result when the publisher edited these books, so what you’ll get this coming year will be more extended and much more cohesive. The published books are still outstanding, don’t get me wrong, but since the rights have reverted back to me, I wanted to get the whole series out and make them as good as I possibly could. The originals still hold a place near and dear to my heart and will still be available.
Now onto other projects! As always, my first book of short stories is also available on this website or wherever books are sold. It is a group of short stories heavily influenced by the original “Twilight Zone” television show with Rod Serling. The title is “A View of the Edge of the World.”
I read an article back in 2001 in Rolling Stone magazine about an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I started writing an adventure novel back then but never got around to finishing it; then a History Channel show called “The Curse of Oak Island” came out, and it reinvigorated my love for this strange, mysterious island. I finished writing the novel in 2021 and meant to edit it in 2022 and get it out, but other things got in the way. I hope to finish editing it this year, get an agent and a publisher, and get it out early next year.
This book is based on Oak Island, but it is very much an “Indiana Jones” type story with heavy historical references which push the story forward as the characters look to uncover the mystery. It reads as half Dan Brown and half-pulp adventure novel. I absolutely love this book and can’t wait for people to read this one (and probably it’s sequels, wink, wink)!
The Revolution Cycle:
This is an expansive Fantasy/Adventure story. It follows a revolution from start to finish and will do so over a proposed 10 books. I’ve written the outline for the first novel and will be diving into it this year. I don t think it will be finished, but I hope to get enough done this year so it can be released by the end of next year.
Book 1. The Monster in the Woods
This first book of the cycle will focus on a group of young protagonists in a school in a secluded Duchy. They question the propaganda fed to them, and they drift apart until one of them finds a mysterious clue left by their strange uncle after he goes off to fight a monster roaming the woods outside the Duchy walls.
This book will have heavy Goonies vibes framed as a fantasy novel Joe Abercrombie would be proud to write. Each successive novel will expand the world and bring the characters further into the fight until they are inextricably involved with the revolution.
Elsie Jones and The Westward Adventurers: The fourth book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pathfinder.”
Elsie Jones and the Transylvania Twist: The fifth book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”
Elsie Jones and the London Fog: The sixth book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.”
Elsie Jones and the Dark Samurai: The seventh book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of Basho’s Haiku.
Elsie Jones and The Last Knight: The eighth book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of Cervantes “Don Quixote.”
Elsie Jones and the Treasure of Tut: The ninth book in the Elsie Jones series. Elsie enters the world of Virgil’s “The Aeneid”
I have written through the twelfth book in the series, but I’m keeping the remaining books under wraps!
I will continue publishing my weekly blog, which currently covers the histories of J.R.R. Tolkien. Each Thursday, I break down the verbiage and story to make the difficult language more accessible for the everyday reader. Check out my previous Blogs on The Silmarillion and all of H.P. Lovecraft’s work here!
You can also find other essays, short stories, and poetry here on my website for free, so I encourage you to read them! There is a good chance I will compile much of them for a future book of short stories, so get them while they are free!
The too far in the future projects:
The remaining books in the Revolution Cycle
A Sequel to The Legacy
Elsinore: A Graphic Novel about a town on the border of Hell
A future Elsie Jones spin-off
Thank you to everyone who follows and for your support for all who have purchased my books! Please continue to do so, and I hope the content I put out brings you joy, wonder, and happiness! Here is to a wonderful and prosperous New Year (with quite a bit of content coming your way)!