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10 Mar, 2023
2023-3-10 4:37:48 PM UTC
I don't recall him giving an explanation for his not revisiting the text of The Silmarillion to effect these changes for a 'third edition'. Such changes are hardly out of keeping with the handful of emendations he implemented in the second edition of 1999, some of which appeared in earlier paperbacks.
I believe the only “creative” change to the 2nd Edition is the addition of Tar-Ardamin as the 19th king of Númenor (something mentioned in UT). I think in the bigger scheme of things it’s safe to say that HoMe was Christopher’s actual “‘Silmarillion’ do-over.” Frankly, I’m not the biggest fan of the ’77 Silmarillion, but I’m glad Christopher left it intact for its fans and didn’t George Lucas it.

Fans mainly like to argue over two issues:

1. Gil-galad: fans want to know who his father “really” was. Honestly, the more Tolkien you’ve read, you know Tolkien changed his mind on this sort of thing all the time. The parentage and even kindred of Celebrimbor or Celeborn, for example. I think it’s safe to say Christopher felt Orodreth was a more solid candidate for Gil-galad’s father, in the end. For me, I like the Fëanor/Fingolfin/Finrod parallel you get in Celebrimbor/Gil-galad/Galadriel. But if JRRT himself could barely be bothered to decide on this, it’s probably unimportant.

2. The Ruin of Doriath: for me, there’s no substitute for reading about it from BOLT2. That’s THE tale. It’s kind of interesting to see how JRRT (and Christopher and GGK) tried to iron out some of the kinks later, but not that interesting. As someone else alluded to, you could rewrite everything about the Nauglamír and it would not result in a very different book.

Where we might have gotten a different book in 1977 is in two factors, I judge:

1. The decision to merge the Quenta and the Annals into a unified narrative. I would say this decision was by no means automatic or obvious. I think it was a good call on Christopher’s part, considering the two works are essentially indistinguishable. The decision to leave out dates prior to the Years of the Sun makes a lot of sense, in light of NoMe. For the Years of the Sun, sufficient dating is in fact present in the narrative to the point that Foster was able to construct a quite correct timeline.

2. The decision to ‘flatten the mode.’ I can’t remember at the moment what Christopher called this, exactly, but this is the biggie, IMO. JRRT’s text of the Quenta+Annals tends to expand and contract. In other words, JRRT’s Silmarillion changes mode between summaries/sketches (i.e., of material covered in the Lost Tales/Great Tales/Lays) and a more full narrative style where he has a new story to tell (eg., Finwë and Míriel; The Wanderings of Húrin). Christopher made the decision to cut out these ‘excursions’ from the text and stick to the summary style. With the exception, I understand, that ‘Of Beren and Lúthien’ was expanded rather than contracted.

I think it would have been really interesting if Christopher had decided to publish some of the Great/Lost Tales first before The Silmarillion, if it would have taken some pressure off him to rework The Silmarillion so much, and let it stand as the companion piece and not necessarily something self-contained. I wonder if it would be more prestigious or less.
11 Mar, 2023
2023-3-11 12:11:14 AM UTC
One that I really don’t understand why he wouldn’t change for the second edition is the very minor fix mentioned in the footnote on p.82 of BoLT I, where he expresses regret at having changed the word “northward” to “westward” in reference to the position of the halls of Mandos in Valinor. I can see why most other creative changes would be more difficult to implement without affecting the whole book, but changing “west” to “north” seems so minor a textual change—but with such a significant affect on the geography of Valinor—that I wonder why it wasn’t done (or, rather, undone).
11 Mar, 2023
2023-3-11 5:57:13 AM UTC
Philomythos, yes, that's a fine example of the small emendations that might easily have been incorporated. More difficult, I suppose, would have been a few corrections he mentions for the big map. There also remain a few misspellings which might easily have been corrected in any one of the numerous reprintings. There are several possibilities for this 'hands-off' approach: 1.) an intention to retain the second edition, flaws and all, as sufficient; 2.) an 'all or nothing' approach toward emendation in which the work necessary for a full revision was perhaps too daunting; 3.) no interest on the part of the publisher. Of these, the first is belied by his 'regrets' noted in the HM volumes, and the third is absurd. I think the answer may be something very like the second. Even so, one can take a pencil or pen to a copy and fix nearly all those 'regrets' quite easily, though the more complicated Nauglamír-related material might require some slips, with the delightful result that one's edition comes to resemble, if only faintly, its source documents.

Ulmo, yes, fans will argue, I suppose. I don't find a compelling interest in such a perspective, however. My own perspective is that The Silmarillion is a literary work, many of the precursors of which were astonishingly preserved, with many of those also published—as The History of Middle-earth—along with commentary by its editor, who explains the author's work and tendencies well. It really isn't a 'do-over' of the published work at all, but a presentation of interrelated archival source material with commentary on how it resulted in the published volume titled The Silmarillion. To expand on what I said in an earlier comment, I don't think any vastly different work would have resulted had the editorial work commenced later for the simple fact that it followed the author's own trends seen in the archival source material itself. JRRT's preference was clearly—for decades—toward the annalistic/summary for the (Quenta) Silmarillion per se, with an apparently wavering intention regarding the inclusion of other materials in the same published volume—e.g., some of the late essays—and an intention for finished editions of the much longer 'Great Tales' to be published separately. Within the drafts, his 'excursions' are—when relationships and the relative dating of the documents is established—seen to be followed by a return to the annalistic/summary mode. He was a writer like others: occasionally carried away by his story in draft, but pulling himself back to his intended mode soon enough. That mode also permitted the inclusion of more stories—quite clearly his intention—however terse their presentation in comparison with other versions in the archival material. (Were The History of Middle-earth never published, would complaints now be made about the annalistic/summary mode and the rejection of 'better versions', or remain complaints of its being too 'biblical' and lacking hobbits?) Regarding 'flattening', Christopher Tolkien several times refers to his editorial work to ensure consistency. Again, some of this consistency-related editorial work appears listed amongst his regrets, but in regards to much finer details than one might expect, e.g., the choice of verb tenses. Again, though, the goal was consistency, something foremost in the concerns of every editor. Tellingly, his qualms regarding verb tenses were over the tense chosen, not over ensuring consistency itself. Overall, the impression of the 'regrets' is that they are largely those of an editor who was being a bit harder on himself than another editor would have been, as the things he notes are often so absolutely minor in a narrative sense. They show an editor who is thoroughly familiar with all the texts, and who feels—unsuprisingly, given his connection to the author—a strong responsibility to present them well. In that, he succeeded, even if he later would change some of the details. Regarding the fan stuff, I confess to utter bafflement in regards to the 'fannish' arguments and many of their concerns, which seem always related to a concern for 'canonicity'. What body of canon law exists for which the 'canonicity' of this or that work would help to resolve issues? Utterly baffling. The works are published and may be enjoyed or not, according to the predilections of the reader. There is no need to insult the editor of all of them, without whose work none of them would be published.
11 Mar, 2023
2023-3-11 5:12:46 PM UTC
Druss, I finally managed to read your article. I find it very interesting and comprehensive about this subject. I was/am trying (very slowly to be honest) to write something similar in Italian, with a side-by-side comparison on the main plot points of all versions. One thing I really would like to see is the note, referred by Christopher Tolkien in Beren and Luthien, on which he based the story of the Nauglamir being made for Finrod Felagund.
13 Mar, 2023
2023-3-13 6:17:01 PM UTC

oxonianus wrote:

Here is a list of page numbers from my notes on such 'regrets' and other corrections Christopher Tolkien mentions, whether regarding the Silmarillion or other works, e.g., Unfinished Tales, the LR maps, etc. I omit the quotations and my commentary; they are part of an article/chapter in preparation.

The reasons for his 'regrets' noted in the HM volumes mainly fall into three interconnected categories: 1.) greater familiarity with the history of the documents than he had in 1975, 2.) having documents he didn't have in 1975, 3.) a changed editorial approach (earlier 'heavy', later 'light'). His comments on changed approaches to the material are fascinating reading, considering the welter of material he was faced with. Given these 'regrets'—which are not many considering the length of the book—had he undertaken to assemble The Silmarillion after having completed The History of Middle-earth volumes, in, say, 2000, it would be only a slightly different book, largely indentical to the published edition.

1: 5–6, 82 n
4: 222, 229, 296, 299, 300, 301, 302, 305, 306, 322, 338
6: 72, 107–8
10: 201, 202, 203, 204
11: 136, 139–40, 149, 159, 180, 210, 232, 302 n. 27, 309–10 n. 55, 315 n. 3, 315 n. 5, 318, 319, 322, 333-4, 340, 354–6
12: 14, 143, 144, 145, 146, 146–7, 148, 149, 152–3, 154, 155, 156, 186, 222, 283, 349–51, 357 n. 17

oxonianus, can you tell me which editions these pages are from ?

Ecthelion, thanks for the reference to this note. I will try to dig a bit about it.
13 Mar, 2023
2023-3-13 11:51:26 PM UTC
Druss, mine is the three-volume omnibus trade set; all are photo-offset from the first editions/first printings.
22 Mar, 2023 (edited)
2023-3-22 3:59:39 PM UTC
I have gone over oxonianus 's amazing list and cross-checked Arda Reconstructed, searched HoMe for "error/mistake/regret/UT" to make sure I didn't miss anything important. Thus come up with an few suggestions:
After "4: 222, 229", the following 9 page numbers actually refer to HoMe 5.
"​7: 137-138, 299, 322" and "​8: 309" could be added.
It seems "12: 14" should be "12: 141".
Lastly, I failed to find the "regrets" in HoMe 12 pp. 146, 146–7, 149, 283, 357 n. 17.
23 Mar, 2023
2023-3-23 12:53:45 AM UTC
Goodness, thank you for catching that! I apologize for too hasty typing.

Yes, those should read:
4: 222, 229
5: 296, 299, 300, 301, 302, 305, 306, 322, 338

Thank you for sharing your suggestions; I'll look into them with interest. Also, in your searching, I would suggest adding 'editorial' and 'editor' and perhaps also 'change' and 'changed', though the latter will produce unwieldly results to winnow.

CT doesn't always explicitly label such changes as regrets. In various cases he simply notes an editorial (i.e., his own) change, which I took as those with which he was uncomfortable at the time of writing, considering that the vast majority of his editorial changes are otherwise unnoted. So, in brief:

12.14 is correct but only a semi-regret; regards ‘Note on the Shire Records’ as temporarily intended for The Silmarillion, not for LR, which would have provided Silm a framework.

12.146: ‘Three Houses’, ‘many times’
12.146–7: ‘friendship’ to ‘converse’
12.149: omitted passage ‘Language they taught...beasts.’
12.283: mea culpa; not a regret, but a typo on the page I noted: ‘revolving’ for ‘resolving’
357 n. 17: regarding a 1968 note on the framework/origin as a work written by Men. Thus also a semi-regret for not having incorporated this into a framework for Silm.
23 Mar, 2023
2023-3-23 1:04:16 AM UTC
I have not had time to take in all this interesting research you are all doing but another search term worth looking at is 'coherent'.
23 Mar, 2023
2023-3-23 3:13:47 AM UTC
Zionius, thank you for the suggested additions, which I have just looked into.

I should clarify that I did not wish to imply that my list was exhaustive; it is restricted to 'regrets' regarding editing The Silmarillion. I very much appreciate the additions regarding Unfinished Tales.
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