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The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1, Page 2

J. R. R. Tolkien

  But he also says: ‘Christopher Tolkien has helped us in this instance by honestly pointing out that The Silmarillion in the shape that we have it is the invention of the son not the father’ and this is a serious misapprehension to which my words have given rise.

  Again, Professor Shippey, while accepting (p. 169) my assurance that a ‘very high proportion’ of the 1937 ‘Silmarillion’ text remained into the published version, is nonetheless elsewhere clearly reluctant to see it as other than a ‘late’ work, even the latest work of its author. And in an article entitled ‘The Text of The Hobbit: Putting Tolkien’s Notes in Order’ (English Studies in Canada, VII, 2, Summer 1981) Constance B. Hieatt concludes that ‘it is very clear indeed that we shall never be able to see the progressive steps of authorial thinking behind The Silmarillion’.

  But beyond the difficulties and the obscurities, what is certain and very evident is that for the begetter of Middle-earth and Valinor there was a deep coherence and vital interrelation between all its times, places, and beings, whatever the literary modes, and however protean some parts of the conception might seem when viewed over a long lifetime. He himself understood very well that many who read The Lord of the Rings with enjoyment would never wish to regard Middle-earth as more than the mise-en-scène of the story, and would delight in the sensation of ‘depth’ without wishing to explore the deep places. But the ‘depth’ is not of course an illusion, like a line of imitation book-backs with no books inside them; and Quenya and Sindarin are comprehensive structures. 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. Every person, every feature of the imagined world that seemed significant to its author is then worthy of attention in its own right, Manwë or Fëanor no less than Gandalf or Galadriel, the Silmarils no less than the Rings; the Great Music, the divine hierarchies, the abodes of the Valar, the fates of the Children of Ilúvatar, are essential elements in the perception of the whole. Such enquiries are in no way illegitimate in principle; they arise from an acceptance of the imagined world as an object of contemplation or study valid as many other objects of contemplation or study in the all too unimaginary world. It was in this opinion and in the knowledge that others shared it that I made the collection called Unfinished Tales.

  But the author’s vision of his own vision underwent a continual slow shifting, shedding and enlarging: only in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings did parts of it emerge to become fixed in print, in his own lifetime. The study of Middle-earth and Valinor is thus complex; for the object of the study was not stable, but exists, as it were ‘longitudinally’ in time (the author’s lifetime), and not only ‘transversely’ in time, as a printed book that undergoes no essential further change. By the publication of ‘The Silmarillion’ the ‘longitudinal’ was cut ‘transversely’, and a kind of finality imposed.

  This rather rambling discussion is an attempt to explain my primary motives in offering The Book of Lost Tales for publication. It is the first step in presenting the ‘longitudinal’ view of Middle-earth and Valinor: when the huge geographical expansion, swelling out from the centre and (as it were) thrusting Beleriand into the west, was far off in the future; when there were no ‘Elder Days’ ending in the drowning of Beleriand, for there were as yet no other Ages of the World; when the Elves were still ‘fairies’, and even Rúmil the learned Noldo was far removed from the magisterial ‘loremasters’ of my father’s later years. In The Book of Lost Tales the princes of the Noldor have scarcely emerged, nor the Grey-elves of Beleriand; Beren is an Elf, not a Man, and his captor, the ultimate precursor of Sauron in that rôle, is a monstrous cat inhabited by a fiend; the Dwarves are an evil people; and the historical relations of Quenya and Sindarin were quite differently conceived. These are a few especially notable features, but such a list could be greatly prolonged. On the other hand, there was already a firm underlying structure that would endure. Moreover in the history of the history of Middle-earth the development was seldom by outright rejection—far more often it was by subtle transformation in stages, so that the growth of the legends (the process, for instance, by which the Nargothrond story made contact with that of Beren and Lúthien, a contact not even hinted at in the Lost Tales, though both elements were present) can seem like the growth of legends among peoples, the product of many minds and generations.

  The Book of Lost Tales was begun by my father in 1916–17 during the First War, when he was 25 years old, and left incomplete several years later. It is the starting-point, at least in fully-formed narrative, of the history of Valinor and Middle-earth; but before the Tales were complete he turned to the composition of long poems, the Lay of Leithian in rhyming couplets (the story of Beren and Lúthien), and The Children of Húrin in alliterative verse. The prose form of the ‘mythology’ began again from a new starting-point* in a quite brief synopsis, or ‘Sketch’ as he called it, written in 1926 and expressly intended to provide the necessary background of knowledge for the understanding of the alliterative poem. The further written development of the prose form proceeded from that ‘Sketch’ in a direct line to the version of ‘The Silmarillion’ which was nearing completion towards the end of 1937, when my father broke off to send it as it stood to Allen and Unwin in November of that year; but there were also important side-branches and subordinate texts composed in the 1930s, as the Annals of Valinor and the Annals of Beleriand (fragments of which are extant also in the Old English translations made by lfwine (Eriol)), the cosmological account called Ambarkanta, the Shape of the World, by Rúmil, and the Lhammas or ‘Account of Tongues’, by Pengolod of Gondolin. Thereafter the history of the First Age was laid aside for many years, until The Lord of the Rings was completed, but in the years preceding its actual publication my father returned to ‘The Silmarillion’ and associated works with great vigour.

  This edition of the Lost Tales in two parts is to be, as I hope, the beginning of a series that will carry the history further through these later writings, in verse and prose; and in this hope I have applied to this present book an ‘overriding’ title intended to cover also those that may follow it, though I fear that ‘The History of Middle-earth’ may turn out to have been over-ambitious. In any case this title does not imply a ‘History’ in the conventional sense: my intention is to give complete or largely complete texts, so that the books will be more like a series of editions. I do not set myself as a primary object the unravelling of many single and separate threads, but rather the making available of works that can and should be read as wholes.

  The tracing of this long evolution is to me of deep interest, and I hope that it may prove so to others who have a taste for this kind of enquiry: whether the major transformations of plot or cosmological theory, or such a detail as the premonitory appearance of Legolas Greenleaf the keen-sighted in the tale of The Fall of Gondolin. But these old manuscripts are by no means of interest only for the study of origins. Much is to be found there that my father never (so far as one can tell) expressly rejected, and it is to be remembered that ‘The Silmarillion’, from the 1926 ‘Sketch’ onwards, was written as an abridgement or epitome, giving the substance of much longer works (whether existing in fact, or not) in a smaller compass. The highly archaic manner devised for his purpose was no fustian: it had range and great vigour, peculiarly apt to convey the magical and eerie nature of the early Elves, but as readily turned to the sarcastic, sneering Melko or the affairs of Ulmo and Ossë. These last approach at times a comic conception, and are delivered in a rapid and lively language that did not survive in the gravity of my father’s later ‘Silmarillion’ prose (so Ossë ‘fares about in a foam of business’ as he anchors the islands to the sea-bed, the cliffs of Tol Eressëa new-filled with the first sea-birds ‘are full of a chattering and a smell of fish, and great conclaves are held upon its ledges’, and when the Shoreland Elves are at last drawn over the sea
to Valinor Ulmo marvellously ‘fares at the rear in his fishy car and trumpets loudly for the discomfiture of Ossë’).

  The Lost Tales never reached or even approached a form in which my father could have considered their publication before he abandoned them; they were experimental and provisional, and the tattered notebooks in which they were written were bundled away and left unlooked at as the years passed. To present them in a printed book has raised many thorny editorial problems. In the first place, the manuscripts are intrinsically very difficult: partly because much of the text was written rapidly in pencil and is now in places extremely hard to read, requiring a magnifying glass and much patience, not always rewarded. But also in some of the Tales my father erased the original pencilled text and wrote a revised version over it in ink—and since at this period he used bound notebooks rather than loose sheets, he was liable to find himself short of space: so detached portions of tales were written in the middle of other tales, and in places a fearsome textual jigsaw puzzle was produced.

  Secondly, the Lost Tales were not all written progressively one after the other in the sequence of the narrative; and (inevitably) my father began a new arrangement and revision of the Tales while the work was still in progress. The Fall of Gondolin was the first of the tales told to Eriol to be composed, and the Tale of Tinúviel the second, but the events of those tales take place towards the end of the history; on the other hand the extant texts are later revisions. In some cases nothing earlier than the revised form can now be read; in some both forms are extant for all, or a part, of their length; in some there is only a preliminary draft; and in some there is no formed narrative at all, but only notes and projections. After much experimentation I have found that no method of presentation is feasible but to set out the Tales in the sequence of the narrative.

  And finally, as the writing of the Tales progressed, relations were changed, new conceptions entered, and the development of the languages pari passu with the narrative led to continual revision of names.

  An edition that takes account of such complexities, as this does, rather than attempt to smooth them artificially away, is liable to be an intricate and crabbed thing, in which the reader is never left alone for a moment. I have attempted to make the Tales themselves accessible and uncluttered while providing a fairly full account, for those who want it, of the actual textual evidences. To achieve this I have drastically reduced the quantity of annotation to the texts in these ways: the many changes made to names are all recorded, but they are lumped together at the end of each tale, not recorded individually at each occurrence (the places where the names occur can be found from the Index); almost all annotation concerned with content is taken up into, or boiled down into, a commentary or short essay following each tale; and almost all linguistic comment (primarily the etymology of names) is collected in an Appendix on Names at the end of the book, where will be found a great deal of information relating to the earliest stages of the ‘Elvish’ languages. In this way the numbered notes are very largely restricted to variants and divergences found in other texts, and the reader who does not wish to trouble with these can read the Tales knowing that that is almost all that he is missing.

  The commentaries are limited in their scope, being mostly concerned to discuss the implications of what is said within the context of the Tales themselves, and to compare them with the published Silmarillion. I have eschewed parallels, sources, influences; and have mostly avoided the complexities of the development between the Lost Tales and the published work (since to indicate these even cursorily would, I think, be distracting), treating the matter in a simplified way, as between two fixed points. I do not suppose for one moment that my analyses will prove either altogether just or altogether accurate, and there must be clues to the solution of puzzling features in the Tales which I have failed to observe. There is also included a short glossary of words occurring in the Tales and poems that are obsolete, archaic, or rare.

  The texts are given in a form very close to that of the original manuscripts. Only the most minor and obvious slips have been silently corrected; where sentences fall awkwardly, or where there is a lack of grammatical cohesion, as is sometimes the case in the parts of the Tales that never got beyond a first rapid draft, I have let them stand. I have allowed myself greater freedom in providing punctuation, for my father when writing at speed often punctuated erratically or not at all; and I have gone further than he did in consistency of capitalisation. I have adopted, though hesitantly, a consistent system of accentuation for Elvish names. My father wrote, for instance: Palûrien, Palúrien, Palurien; nen, Onen; Kôr, Kor. I have used the acute accent for macron, circumflex, and acute (and occasional grave) accents of the original texts, but the circumflex on monosyllables—thus Palúrien, Ónen, Kôr: the same system, at least to the eye, as in later Sindarin.

  Lastly, the division of this edition into two parts is entirely due to the length of the Tales. The edition is conceived as a whole, and I hope that the second part will appear within a year of the first; but each part has its own Index and Appendix on Names. The second part contains what are in many respects the most interesting of the Tales: Tinúviel, Turambar (Túrin), The Fall of Gondolin, and the Tale of the Nauglafring (the Necklace of the Dwarves); outlines for the Tale of Eärendel and the conclusion of the work; and lfwine of England.



  On the cover of one of the now very battered ‘High School Exercise Books’ in which some of the Lost Tales were composed my father wrote: The Cottage of Lost Play, which introduceth [the] Book of Lost Tales; and on the cover is also written, in my mother’s hand, her initials, E.M.T., and a date, Feb. 12th 1917. In this book the tale was written out by my mother; and it is a fair copy of a very rough pencilled manuscript of my father’s on loose sheets, which were placed inside the cover. Thus the date of the actual composition of this tale could have been, but probably was not, earlier than the winter of 1916–17. The fair copy follows the original text precisely; some further changes, mostly slight (other than in the matter of names), were then made to the fair copy. The text follows here in its final form.

  Now it happened on a certain time that a traveller from far countries, a man of great curiosity, was by desire of strange lands and the ways and dwellings of unaccustomed folk brought in a ship as far west even as the Lonely Island, Tol Eressëa in the fairy speech, but which the Gnomes1 call Dor Faidwen, the Land of Release, and a great tale hangs thereto.

  Now one day after much journeying he came as the lights of evening were being kindled in many a window to the feet of a hill in a broad and woody plain. He was now near the centre of this great island and for many days had wandered its roads, stopping each night at what dwelling of folk he might chance upon, were it hamlet or good town, about the hour of eve at the kindling of candles. Now at that time the desire of new sights is least, even in one whose heart is that of an explorer; and then even such a son of Eärendel as was this wayfarer turns his thoughts rather to supper and to rest and the telling of tales before the time of bed and sleep is come.

  Now as he stood at the foot of the little hill there came a faint breeze and then a flight of rooks above his head in the clear even light. The sun had some time sunk beyond the boughs of the elms that stood as far as eye could look about the plain, and some time had its last gold faded through the leaves and slipped across the glades to sleep beneath the roots and dream till dawn.

  Now these rooks gave voice of home-coming above him, and with a swift turn came to their dwelling in the tops of some high elms at the summit of this hill. Then thought Eriol (for thus did the people of the island after call him, and its purport is ‘One who dreams alone’, but of his former names the story nowhere tells): ‘The hour of rest is at hand, and though I know not even the name of this fair-seeming town upon a little hill here I will seek rest and lodging and go no further till the morrow, nor go even then perchance, for the place seems fair and its breezes of a good savour. To me
it has the air of holding many secrets of old and wonderful and beautiful things in its treasuries and noble places and in the hearts of those that dwell within its walls.’

  Now Eriol was coming from the south and a straight road ran before him bordered at one side with a great wall of grey stone topped with many flowers, or in places overhung with great dark yews. Through them as he climbed the road he could see the first stars shine forth, even as he afterwards sang in the song which he made to that fair city.

  Now was he at the summit of the hill amidst its houses, and stepping as if by chance he turned aside down a winding lane, till, a little down the western slope of the hill, his eye was arrested by a tiny dwelling whose many small windows were curtained snugly, yet only so that a most warm and delicious light, as of hearts content within, looked forth. Then his heart yearned for kind company, and the desire for wayfaring died in him—and impelled by a great longing he turned aside at this cottage door, and knocking asked one who came and opened what might be the name of this house and who dwelt therein. And it was said to him that this was Mar Vanwa Tyaliéva, or the Cottage of Lost Play, and at that name he wondered greatly. There dwelt within, ’twas said, Lindo and Vairë who had built it many years ago, and with them were no few of their folk and friends and children. And at this he wondered more than before, seeing the size of the cottage; but he that opened to him, perceiving his mind, said: ‘Small is the dwelling, but smaller still are they that dwell here—for all who enter must be very small indeed, or of their own good wish become as very little folk even as they stand upon the threshold.’