Sunday 26 December 2010

My hopes for The Notion Club Papers - separate cover publication


Although I am forced to admit that when I have recommended reading the NCPs I have found that other people's responses have usually been under-whelming; nonetheless my main hope is that at some point this will be published under separate cover; prefaced by the relevant Lost Road material, and marketed as something-like:

'The Notion Club Papers: an unfinished novel by JRR Tolkien'.

This might conceivably happen if, or when, the History of Middle Earth is re-issued - at which point the present Lost Road volume might be shorn of its Lost Road material and re-named The Quenta Silmarillion.

(This would itself provide a much more readable,  'Silmarillion' than the current 1978 compilation - and highly marketable, especially with its Last Battle/ end of time conclusion.)

The Lord of the Rings material might be re-organized into a three volume unit (instead of three and one third volumes, as at present) - with the great selling point of the Epilogue.

This would liberate volume IX of such a putative second edition of HoME to be dedicated to The Notion Club Papers, and might attract a smallish but devoted 'cult' readership of people like myself; that is to say, Tolkien-o-philes who (for some reason) might become utterly obsessed with this story!

And the prospect of a 'new novel' by Tolkien would surely attract enough publicity to justify the venture.

Well, I can dream...


Thursday 9 December 2010

Tolkien and the 'good German' - The Lost Road fragment


Christopher Tolkien, from The Lost Road:

"From Elendil's words at the end of The Lost Road there emerges a sinister picture: the withdrawal of the besotted and aging king from the public view, the unexplained disappearance of people unpopular with the 'government', informers, prisons, torture, secrecy, fear of the night; propaganda in the form of the 'rewriting of history' (...); the multiplication of weapons of war, the purpose of which is concealed but guessed at; and behind all the dreadful figure of Sauron, the real power, surveying the whole land from the Mountain of Numenor. 

"The teaching of Sauron has led to the invention of ships of metal that traverse the seas without sails, but which are hideous in the eyes of those who have not abandoned or forgotten Tol-Eressea; to the building of grim fortresses and unlovely towers; and to missiles that pass with a noise like thunder to strike their targets many miles away. 

"Moreover, Numenor is seen by the young as overpopulous, boring, 'over-known': "every tree and grass-blade is counted", in Herendil's words; and this cause of discontent is used, it seems, by Sauron to further the policy of "imperial" expansion and ambition that he presses on the king. 

"When at this time my father reached back to the world of the first man to bear the name "Elf- friend" he found there an image of what he most condemned and feared in his own."

The History of Middle Earth volume 5 - edited by Christopher Tolkien - The Lost Road. 1987. Paperback edition - page 77.


JRRT's son, Christopher, has said that in decribing Numenor, Tolkien was thinking of the Nazis in Germany - who took over in 1933. 

As a philologist of Germanic languages, Germany was the centre of Tolkien's intellectual world; and he was appalled by the change in this beloved culture under National Socialism. 

In The Lost Road, he reflects on the moral conflicts of a person caught up in such political processes - where a beloved country becomes evil; and the dreadful dilemma between the short term and immediate duty to family, and the ultimate duty to 'God'. 

Much of this shortish fragment (about 35 continuous pages, with a few dozen other pages of fragments) of an unfinished novel consists of an agonized discussion between Elendil - leader of the 'good Numenoreans' - and his son Herendil who has been partially corrupted by the majority of evil Numenoreans (led, from behind the throne, by the evil demon (fallen angel) Sauron (who at that time was man-like, exceedingly beautiful, intelligent and eloquent, and of greater than human stature).  

Herendil urges his father to adopt a quietist attitude, withdrawing from public life, refraining from criticism of the regime. To be a 'good German' in the Middle Earth equivalent of a National Socialist tyranny. Elendil cannot bring himself to do this. Herendil fears the secret spies, the torture chambers, and being killed as a human sacrifice to the devilish Morgoth. 

And there the fragment stops.