Aktualności ze świata miłośników twórczości Tolkiena

The Silmarillion – Thirty Years On: a survey in English

It’s a translation of my survey in Polish of the newly published book The Silmarillion – Thirty Years On.

1. Rhona Beare, A Mythology for England

The author compares the Greek mythology with the Anglo-Saxon one and comes to a conclusion that the motives and emotions of the Mediterranean myths aren’t similar to the motives and emotions of the myths of Albion at all; and the main reason for this is the climate. Tolkien drew his inspiration from the legends of the lands which are misty and cold. She examines also the motive of the „green big dragon” in the creation of Tolkien (did you know, for example, that Chrysofilax was green according to the illustrations by Pauline Baynes, approved by Tolkien himself?). The word „stonc” in Beowulf (þa se wyrm onwoc, wroht wæs geniwad; stonc æfter stane, 2285), that Tolkien, contrary to others scholars, understood as „smell, scent” – and maybe from there comes Smaug’s extraordinary sense of smell. She compares also the history of Númenor to the history of the Flood, and the personality of Elendil to that of Noah. She examines rather minutely the origins and the etymology of the name Earendel/Earendil and she mentions that the motive of Two Trees is borrowed from a Greek roman of Alexandre translated in XII century in Anglosaxon by the means of the alliterative verse.

2. Michael Drout, Reflections on Thirty Years of Reading The Silmarillion

These are autobiographical notes – the author recalls his first reading of The Silmarillion at the age of nine. It was a very hard year for his family: the depression in USA and the divorce of his parents. The reading of The Silmarillion proceeded against a background of the low spirit of the child: he had a sad impression that the world had been changed and the past will never turn back. Tolkien was able to transform this sadness into beauty and this gave moral support to the child. In spite of everything he didn’t believe neither then nor today as an adult that the star of the hope – Gil-Estel – would arise. But this didn’t spoil for him the beauty and power of The Silmarillion – quite the contrary. The Silmarillion doesn’t consist only of darkness – there is also the greatness of the shores of Elende: rocks, crystal stairs, light, sea, gems brought by waves… The Silmarillion teaches us how to value the beauty in this short period of time when it’s here, and afterwards when it will be no more.

3. Anna Slack, Moving Mandos: “The Dynamics of Subcreation in ‘Of Beren and Lúthien’

It’s an article dedicated to the part of the oaths and songs in the history of Beren and Lúthien. The creation of Tolkien is built on the opposition of the dyscatastrophe („Beowulf syndrome”) and the eucatastrophe („the Eagle effect”). In the history of Beren and Lúthien the oaths relate to the former and the songs to the latter. This dichotomy comes from the „Ainulindalё”, where we can see two struggling creative forces: Valar vs Melkor. Tolkien shows this fight, arranging the text in the likeness of the alliterative Anglosaxon verse:

Valleys they delved / and Melkor raised them up;
Mountains they carved / and Melkor threw them down;
Seas they hollowed / and Melkor spilled them.

We can see in the creation of Tolkien two models of subcreation: oath-taking and song-making. The oath impels to go in the forced direction while the song creates a new direction, a new reality. The history of Beren and Lúthien is a co-existence of oaths and songs. The song of Lúthien before Mandos is at the same time an eucatastrophe (the return to life) and a dyscatastrophe (the inevitability of death).

4. Michael Devaux, The Origins of the Ainulindalё: The Present State of Research

The author examines the textological history of the Ainulindalё, comparing different draft versions and determining Catholic elements belonging to this text. He shows that, by making alterations, Tolkien tried to introduce into the text more elements corresponding to the Catholic doctrine as to make it more acceptable to people believing in the Holy Trinity. This doesn’t mean that in the early drafts we can find some elements discordant with Catholicism – only they were then implicite and later they were made more developed and more evident. The Catholic elements in the Ainulindalё are: the idea of creation 1) ex nihilo; 2) by the word; 3) of a creator God; 4) the idea of a second music; 5) the idea of the participation of the angels in the creation of the world; 6) the idea of the fall of the greatest of the angels; 7) the idea of a Holy Spirit: it’s a Flame Imperishable (a creative activity of Eru) that is distinct of Eru but also in Him.

5. Jason Fisher, From Mytopoeia to Mythography: Tolkien, Lönnrot, and Jerome

The author compares The Silmarillion, Kalevala and Biblia Vulgata from a textological point of view. In all three cases we have to do with a great amount of indigested text and with its „constructors” – that are J.R.R and Christopher Tolkien, Elias Lönnrot and Jerome. The author examines the effects of Kalevala on the creation of Tolkien and Finnish adoptions in Quenya, he compares also The Silmarillion to the Old Testament, and emphasizes that it was just the Vulgata version of the Bible being the principal text of the Roman Catholic Church that influenced the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien. As for the part of Christopher Tolkien, it was similar to that of Lönnrot during the treatment of Kalevala and to that of Jerome during the treatment of the Bible. The result of the work of Christopher Tolkien is one of the possible Silmarillions, just to the same extent as the work of Lönnrot is one of the possible Kalevalas, and the work of Jerome – one of the possible Bibles.

6. Nils Ivar Agøy, Viewpoints, Audiences and Lost Texts in The Silmarillion

The author very minutely examines the problem of “lost text technique” – that is the problem of the „inside author” of the tales of The Silmarillion. Who could write these tales? Tolkien after all declined the version of Eriol/AElfwine. In The Silmarillion we can hear the voices of two narrators: one is all-knowing (he knows, for example, what occured before the creation of the Ainur and what are the thoughts and motives of Manwe and Morgoth). The other is restricted by the Elvish tradition: he doesn’t possess the fullness of knowledge. And what can be the assumed audience of The Silmarillion? They ignore the existence of Valar, they need to be informed that „Elves are immortal”. Maybe much time has passed since the end of the Third Age and Elves are already forgotten? Ainulindalё, Valaquenta and Quenta Silmarillion look like the texts written by Men, but in that case there should be some recollections of the legends and traditions of Edain before their arrival into Beleriand. But there aren’t, and so the „Númenor – Gondor version” is improbable. Also the version that The Silmarillion has been written by Bilbo is improbable. For example, if Bilbo made use of all available sources, including Elrond and Glorfindel, why is the text so „human”?
In the final analysis the author comes to a conclusion that there is no „inside author” in The Silmarillion at all – there arises too many contradictions. But this fact doesn’t hinder us to read this book with pleasure :-)

Kategorie wpisu: In Westron (English)

1 komentarz do wpisu "The Silmarillion – Thirty Years On: a survey in English"

Hyalma, dnia 01.02.2008 o godzinie 10:51

Maybe I should mention at once that this survey hasn’t been ment to be something like „a highly informative and thoroughly descriptive one” – I’ve tried simply to write down the facts and ideas that for me personally have seemed interesting.

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