Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tolkien essays

I have been debating whether I should turn my attention fully back to writing Tolkien essays. I find myself in a unique position: for the first time in my adult life, I have all of one Tolkien book in my possession. How could I possibly do any reasonable research on the topic?

Of course, I have quoted so many passages on the Internet through the years I've often gotten by in new discussions -- and even occasionally in writing new Tolkien essays -- just on finding old citations on the Internet. But it's not easy to find just the right passage. And there is no guarantee that I quoted everything I need, or that my citations are indexed, or that I cited something properly (most often I find small typos in my citations).

It would be a challenge to rely just on those old archived discussions, but as the publication dates of The Children of Hurin and The History of the Hobbit approach I feel a sense of expectancy. People seem to want me to say something more.

Well, the occasional requests for new essays contribute something to that sense. I've been writing a series of Tolkien essays for the News From Bree newsletter (although so far I have only contributed 2 essays).

And I've begun writing mini-essays for the blog at Tolkien Studies on the Web. I'm not sure of where I'll go with that blog yet. I do need to get back to the Webliography and other resources, but there is so much work to do. I'm starting to feel a little like Niggle. I don't know if I'll ever finish the tree.

MERP wants more essays. People keep referring to Xenite.Org as a Tolkien essay archive, although there isn't all that much Tolkien content there. I have some essays on Xenite but not anything like the archives at Suite101 and MERP.

The new books will inspire some people to revisit old questions, debates that mostly matter to no one outside a handful of people. The Two Thrains issue is the most likely one to be resparked by The History of The Hobbit. The Balrog Wings Debate was not settled by The Lord of the Rings: A Readers' Companion, except that more and more people seem to be finding ways to agree that the "wings" were not fleshy, flappy, physical wings.

The problem with Tolkien Great Debates is that you often have people speaking entirely past each other. For example, I'm an ardent purist and I refuse to intermingle the various mythologies. Yet other people feel there is some relevance to be found in citing The Book of Lost Tales while analyzing, say, The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, neither of which is directly connected to The Book of Lost Tales in any way.

If after more than ten years some people refuse to give up their hope of creating a Unified Tolkien Theory, why should I feel compelled to continue correcting their nonsense on the Internet? Tolkien's "mythology for England" was set in England, not Middle-earth. Give it up. The books aren't changing no matter how many times we clap our hands.

So the question remains: to go forward or to close a chapter of my life? But can I really end it just like that? Would I be able to walk away and never feel compelled to say something again?

To be honest, after I wrote my last essay for MERP which looks into the truth about Balrogs, I really didn't want to write any more Tolkien stuff at all. But then News From Bree came calling. And every now and then Matt Tinaglia suggests there are a few topics I may have missed, or I didn't cover to his satisfaction.

And other people ask me questions continually. Just today (yesterday) someone at worked asked me, "Michael, was Gollum really a hobbit?"

Yeah. I think I'll just get up and walk away right now. I see four Dwarves are waiting for me by the garden gate. All I need now is for Gandalf to persuade me to leave my Ring with my Heir....


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