May 15, 2017

Beren and Luthien Tease


Pictured above is the backcover from the forthcoming Beren and Luthien. Before I get into this post, I will say a big thanks to "Tolkien Italia" for providing this info on The Tolkien Society's Facebook group page. What follows is what they've posted to the group:
News about "Beren and Luthien" with extracts from Christopher's Preface.Here's the table of contents:

CONTENTS

- List of plates (p.8)
- Preface (p.9)

- Beren and Lúthien (p. 27)
- Appendix: Revisions to “The Lay of Leithian” (p.257)

- List of Names (p.274)
- Cat3 (p. 286)
------------------------------------------

In addition, some extracts from the preface of Christopher Tolkien.

«After the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977 I spent several years investigating the earlier history of the work, and writing a book which I called “The History of The Silmarillion”. Later this because the (somewhat shortened) basis of the earlier volumes of “The History of Middle-earth”.
In 1981 I wrote at length to Rayner Unwin, the chairman of Allen and Unwin, giving him an account of what I had been, and was still, doing. At that time, as I informed him, the book was 1,968 pages long and sixteen and a half inches across, and obviously not for publication.
[...]
'In theory, I could produce a lot of books out of the History, and there are many possibilities and combinations of possibilities. For example, I could do "Beren", with the original Lost Tales, “The Lay of Leithian”, and an essay on the development of the legend. My preference, if it came to anything so positive, would probably be for the treating of one legend as a developing entity, rather than to give all the Lost Tales at one go; but the difficulties of exposition in detail would in such a case be great, because one would have to explain so often what was happening elsewhere, in other unpublished writings.'»

The transition living resource is particularly significant because it shows the massive problems of a curator that, even if I wanted to give prominence to individual legends in their specific evolution, can't ignore the difficulties that readers would face without having available to all the other legends in their interdependent and sometimes Contemporary in the same evolution; he does it with the words of the same curator Christopher, extrapolated directly from a letter of the period. This is also the first public admission of Christopher Tolkien about the existence of a book prior to "the history of middle-Earth" dedicated to the history of literary works paterne he designed and produced in those years; Rayner Unwin had spoken, without Titolarlo indirectly, in a book review published in 2000 (Flieger & Hostetter 2000, " Tolkien' S Tolkien's legendarium "), while the words " the history of the silmarillion " appeared only in private matches of Christopher.

We understand how easily, soon the idea of presenting the whole corpus of legends divided into periods the diary of composition took over. The following may disappoint many fans.

«I seem now to have done precisely that - though with no thought of what I had said in my letter to Rayner Unwin thirty-five years ago: I had altogether forgotten it, until I came on it by chance when this book was all but completed.
There is however a substantial difference between it and my original idea, which is a difference of context. Since then, a large part of the in close store of manuscripts pertaining to the First Age, or Elder Days, has been published, in close and detailed editions: chiefly in volumes of “The History of Middle-earth”. The idea of a book devoted to the evolving
story of 'Beren' that I ventured to mention to Rayner Unwin as a possible publication would have brought to light much hitherto unknown and unavailable writing. But this book does not offer a single page of original and unpublished work.»

No news text, so, despite implicitly Christopher admit that further textual material exists. What Relevance, unfortunately, we cannot know, even if we can be reasonably trust not crucial. Of course Christopher one is to explain what it is, then, the sense of a similar publication and her explanations will be satisfactory.

«What then is the need, now, for such a book?
I will attempt to provide an (inevitably complex) answer, or several answers. In the first place, an aspect of those editions was the presentation of the texts in a way that adequately displayed my father's apparently eccentric mode of composition (often in fact imposed by external pressures), and so to discover the sequence of stages in the development of a narrative, and to justify my interpretation of the evidence.
[...]
It is an essential feature of this book that these developments in the legend of Beren and Luthien are shown in my father's own words, for the method that I have employed is the extraction of passages from much longer manuscripts in prose or verse written over many years.»

What can we infer the composition of this new book?

First of all, we can be sure that this book is not an operation identical to that accomplished for "the children of hùrin". this new book will be organized as a literary history of deeds of beren and lúthien, presented in the form stages of different versions of the various Periods, intact, without a summary narrative (often failed) on the model of the chapters of "the silmarillion".
Then we can safely conclude (see also the table of contents) something about the versions that are derived from:
- the poem "the lay of leithian" will be brought back at least for large steps of the versions of the 30 s, with in appendix revisions of the early 50 s;
- the first version, contained in the " lost tales, it will be just as present.
Hard instead exposure about versions synthetic more present in the various annals and in the drafts of The Silmarillion.
Source: Images And texts preview of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from harpercollins license: © Tolkien Summer Limited 2017, preface by © CR. Tolkien, 2017 illustration by © Alan Lee.

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