Monday, February 02, 2009

2009 Tolkien Readstravaganza: The History of Middle-Earth Vol. IX: The End of the Third Age (ish)

The final volume of the History of Middle-Earth to focus on The Lord of the Rings is The End of the Third Age and/or Sauron Defeated. The difference between these two books is that Sauron Defeated includes the contents of The End of the Third Age as well as some other writings, not directly related to The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien's original intent was to have only three volums focus on LOTR, but in the end he had too much to fit and so we have this fourth volume.

Here wee see that the climax of the novels is reached and then the following celebration and journey home are traced all the way to the Grey Havens and beyond. One thing which is absent is any study of how Tlkien developed the appendices. According to a note in front of the book, this is covered in Volume XII: The People's of Middle-Earth.

As far as the climax goes, Tolkien fiddled with a few variations of how the ring ultimately ended up in the fire. At one point Sam tackles Gollum and tumbles into the crack with him!

The Scouring of the Shire went through a few major changes. One of the biggest was that Saruman was only thought to have a hand in things from a distance, and only near the end of everything did he become Sharkey. All throughout the writing process from the overthrowing of Isengard, Tolkien had considered what to do with him, including the possibility of a full redemption at one point I think.

What really hit me with this volume though, was the final epilogue. Once Sam returned home and said "Well, I'm back." Tolkien intended to have one final chapter to wrap things up further. There are two variants of this epilogue. The first has Sam surrounded by all of his children and lets the secret of an upcoming visit from the King slip out. The second has him only with his eldest daughter, Eleanor. Both of them bring about the same information, just in their respective situations. In the end he was persuaded by others that no epilogue was necessary and that it hurt more than it helped. I am inclined to disagree. I found that I enjoyed it very much and the same teary eyed response I have to the official ending of the book, greeted me here as well. The one consolation is that all of the main information that comes from the epilogue can be found in The Tale of Years found in the appendices of The Return of the King.

So, this also marks the end of the first chunk of reading I have set out before me. The official page count is at 1636/9953. The total number could still rise as May is bringing us yet another new Tolkien book. The Legend of Sigurd and GudrĂșn is not Middle-Earth related, but it will make a fine addition to my growing collection.

For now, however, I will be turning my attention to the Humphrey Carpenter's J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, as well as The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. My plan is to read them together. As I read through one section of his life, I can then go and read the letters he wrote during the same time period. I am excited to finally be delving into more about the Man himself, as up till now I have generally only ever focused on his works.