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Aramley
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Post What is considered 'canon'?
on: March 21, 2004 04:30
I was just wondering, what is considered 'canon' amongst all the works about Middle Earth?
If you only count works that were written by JRR Tolkien himself, then do you have to disregard 'The Silmarillion', 'Unfinished Tales' and the 'History of Middle-Earth' series because they were partly written by Christopher Tolkien?
atalante_star
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: March 21, 2004 05:04
The strictest definition of canon is the published versions of work that JRRT completed on his own, i.e. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

However, most people also accept the Silmarillion as canon, because Tolkien wrote most of it, and put all the ideas into place.

Unfinished Tales and HoME aren't generally considered canonical, as they either contain early versions of published stories, or contain stories that were significantly edited by Christopher Tolkien.

There is a rather lengthy essay written by Steuard Jensen on this topic - he works through the ideas of canonicity in great detail. A link is here.

[Edited on 21/3/2004 by atalante_star]
Maedhros
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 03, 2004 07:24
I believe that the HoME series should not be ruled out.

Atlante -- You write that "because Tolkien wrote most of it, and put all the ideas into place" - Yes, but he also wrote most of HoME, and the parts that he did not write are clearly marked as editor commentary.

The Silmarillion, while most people do accept it as canon, should not be taken as so. JRRT did not edit it himself, he did not have the final say on what went in and was did not. Added to that, CT did not have all of his father's writings when he made the Silmarillion, so there are things that he did not know which went into the Sil. It can be compared to accepting David Day's work as good, because Day wrote many things before he saw HoME, things which are later shown to be very wrong.

Even the Hobbit should really not be taken at the same level as Lord of the Rings - it was made for children, and contains some things that go against the nature of LoTR. However, because it was published by the Good Professor himself, it is still higher than the Sil and HoME etc.

The Unfinished Tales is another point to itself. Most of the stories therein are not told elsewhere, and thus are the only drafts we have available. To me, this means that they should be accepted as truth unless they conflict with other texts, and even then, entire stories are not rendered useless, but merely small things within different stories. The main problem with the UT is that it is self-contradictory in places, like the "Galadrial and Celeborn" chapter.

However, there is another thing - the Letters of JRRT. I believe that they are invaluable and are very high canon. They contain thoughts strait from the mind of Tolkien about his world, and the author's thoughts should be considered as truth in the world he created.

A a wrap-up until people start to disagree with me, I will say that there ought to be several levels of canon. My views are this:

Primary Canon
Level 1: Lord of the Rings
Level 2: Letters of JRRT*
Secondary Canon: Hobbit
Tertiary Canon: Silmarillion, HoME**
Quartiary Canon: Unfinished Tales

*The Letters should be compared to LoTR, not overruling it. We should fit them within the context of the story.
Nienna-of-the-Valar
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 03, 2004 03:42
Well Maedhros, all Atalante_star and I are trying to say to you is that *most* Tolkien enthusiasts do not rely on the HoMe series as though it were canon. *Many* do rely on the Silmarillion though, and most certainly LotR and the Hobbit. You can choose to rely on whichever resources that you like, but if you are quoting HoMe, you can expect some people to refute that as a reference. Your opinion is in the minority, I'm afraid, but of course it is your right to believe as you wish Enjoy the site!

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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 08:21
Here is the definition for the word canon. I'm sure you're not the only one who is confused!

1. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: “the durable canon of American short fiction” (William Styron).

2. The works of a writer that have been accepted as authentic: the entire Shakespeare canon.
atalante_star
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 09:12
Some comments on other people's comments .....
Yes, but he also wrote most of HoME, and the parts that he did not write are clearly marked as editor commentary.

Well, yes, obviously. But he wrote the material in the HoME series over a good number of years. Unless one wants to accept certain paragraphs or chapters of the HoME books as canon and the rest as not canon, it's really not possible to describe the entire HoME series as canonical.
The Silmarillion, while most people do accept it as canon, should not be taken as so. JRRT did not edit it himself, he did not have the final say on what went in and was did not. Added to that, CT did not have all of his father's writings when he made the Silmarillion, so there are things that he did not know which went into the Sil. It can be compared to accepting David Day's work as good, because Day wrote many things before he saw HoME, things which are later shown to be very wrong.

You're totally right about the state of the Silmarillion. But there's one vital thing you seem to be missing out. The Silmarillion is the *primary* *published* account of those stories. And as for your comment about David Day, I am very much hoping that you were joking as the Silmarillion, of course, can't be compared in any way to David Day's works.
Even the Hobbit should really not be taken at the same level as Lord of the Rings - it was made for children, and contains some things that go against the nature of LoTR. However, because it was published by the Good Professor himself, it is still higher than the Sil and HoME etc.

The Hobbit is generally not taken as being on the same level as LotR. If we look at info in The Hobbit and conflicting info in LotR, then LotR will win every time.
The Unfinished Tales is another point to itself. Most of the stories therein are not told elsewhere, and thus are the only drafts we have available. To me, this means that they should be accepted as truth unless they conflict with other texts, and even then, entire stories are not rendered useless, but merely small things within different stories. The main problem with the UT is that it is self-contradictory in places, like the "Galadrial and Celeborn" chapter.

Yup. Agreed
However, there is another thing - the Letters of JRRT. I believe that they are invaluable and are very high canon. They contain thoughts strait from the mind of Tolkien about his world, and the author's thoughts should be considered as truth in the world he created.

Um. I don't think that's really a very sensible view to take. The Letters are wonderful, and contain a huge amount of material. But the letters within range in date from 1914 to 1973. Are you proposing to accept his first inklings of ideas for his mythology as canon because they are in Letters? Or would you suggest a cut-off date for canon? Say ... after LotR publication? I'd be interested to hear your ideas on that
A a wrap-up until people start to disagree with me, I will say that there ought to be several levels of canon. My views are this:
Primary Canon
Level 1: Lord of the Rings
Level 2: Letters of JRRT*
Secondary Canon: Hobbit
Tertiary Canon: Silmarillion, HoME**
Quartiary Canon: Unfinished Tales

Well, firstly as I'm sure you've worked out by now lol, I don't agree with your order, and I'm fairly sure that most Tolkien scholars and readers wouldn't agree either. But of course, you're more than welcome to hold your own opinion on the matter. I'm just trying to make you aware of the generally accepted order of canonicity of Tolkien's works, and the order which we tend to use here.

And as lovely as the idea of primary - quaternary canon is, and as usable as it is in personal study for those who understand Tolkien's works well, it unfortunately isn't of much use in a much broader sense.
there are thigns from BoLT which we can take as (more or less), true. Things like the tale of the Fall of Gondolin. That is nowhere else told.

Of course. Some things from HoME can be taken as the final versions of stories as nowhere in later works are they contradicted.

Your example - the Fall of Gondolin - is a perfect one. You say nowhere else is it told. But it is. In the Silmarillion. Of course, there the account has been squashed and squeezed down to a few simple paragraphs, and the only detailed account known is the one in the Book of Lost Tales 2. It is striking to note that the few details mentioned in the Silmarillion are identical to those in BoLT (e.g. Maeglin's body hitting Amon Gwareth three times before falling into the flames), and Christopher Tolkien, in his commentary on the BoLT story suggests that most changes between the two versions are simply as a result of compression rather than any significant change in the course of events.

The main differences, of course, between the BoLT version and later versions of the mythology are to do with the dragons and the balrogs. Balrogs - there were a load of Balrogs in the battle in BoLT. Tolkien's early concept of Balrogs had them as demons of powers, capable of pain and fear, and less terrible and more destructible than their later counterparts. The Balrogs of the Silmarillion were another matter all together. As for the dragons - the way they are described in BoLT are as mechanical, metallic creatures. By the Silmarillion, Tolkien's ideas on dragons had changed considerably.

So ... we have an issue ... to take the total account in BoLT as canon and ignore the changes to the Balrogs of the Silmarillion? To take the BoLT account as canon apart from the little changes? Or to say that the BoLT account is pretty good but not actually canon.
That is where CT's commentary comes into play. As the one who knows more about his father's writings that any other, I think if the commentary in HoME says that a version not in the Sil the the proper one, it should be taken as truth.

Yup. I would agree with that. The one big example that most people know of this is the parentage of Gil-galad.
Maedhros
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 11:52
Nienna -- "all Atalante_star and I are trying to say to you is that *most* Tolkien enthusiasts do not rely on the HoMe series as though it were canon..." -- Well, I for one do not trust popular opinion to be a good determining factor in what is and is not canon. To use the age-old question: If everyone else jumped off the Grand Canyon, would you? I do not think that majority rules is a good view to take on canon, it depends what the author says.

Ahhh....now for the post of Atalante... *stretches*.....

Well, yes, obviously. But he wrote the material in the HoME series over a good number of years.

(my bolding)

True, Tolkien did write the content of HoME over a long period of time, however, the Silmarillion was based off of HoME; and an incomplete 'set' at that! The very fact that CT had not read all his father's notes etc means the Silmarillion cannot be taken as canon.

Unless one wants to accept certain paragraphs or chapters of the HoME books as canon and the rest as not canon, it's really not possible to describe the entire HoME series as canonical.


That is where CT's commentary comes into play, it helps us determine which version of the story is correct, or if he made a mistake in the Silmarillion.

You're totally right about the state of the Silmarillion. But there's one vital thing you seem to be missing out. The Silmarillion is the *primary* *published* account of those stories. And as for your comment about David Day, I am very much hoping that you were joking as the Silmarillion, of course, can't be compared in any way to David Day's works.


I was slightly jesting at the David Day comment, but it is grounded. It is similar, CT simply did not have all the facts when he published the Silmarillion, therefore it cannot be thought of as always the proper version.

Further, I agree that the Sil is the primary book about the First Age and other myths, however, it cannot be taken as a published work. JRRT did not publish it, he made all the stories and revised them - it was up to CT, if anyone, to compile the Sil from those notes, and it is a task which he later questions should even have been done, and one which he admits mistakes about.

The Hobbit is generally not taken as being on the same level as LotR. If we look at info in The Hobbit and conflicting info in LotR, then LotR will win every time.


I didn't say that Hobbit was equal with Lord of the Rings, I was it was higher than the Sil and HoME.

Um. I don't think that's really a very sensible view to take. The Letters are wonderful, and contain a huge amount of material. But the letters within range in date from 1914 to 1973. Are you proposing to accept his first inklings of ideas for his mythology as canon because they are in Letters? Or would you suggest a cut-off date for canon? Say ... after LotR publication?


There are not many Letters from the early years. I am putting this out for anyone who doesn't know (I am confident that you do), but as early as Letter 37 it is practically 1940 (like 11 days short). I do agree that not everything in them can be considered absolute and pure truth (note the disclaimer I had for them). However, the great majority of them should be regarded as very high canon.

Well, firstly as I'm sure you've worked out by now lol, I don't agree with your order, and I'm fairly sure that most Tolkien scholars and readers wouldn't agree either. But of course, you're more than welcome to hold your own opinion on the matter. I'm just trying to make you aware of the generally accepted order of canonicity of Tolkien's works, and the order which we tend to use here


I disagree that most Tolkien scholors would disagree with my list. I am a member on another site (Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza), which boasts a huge amount of loremasters, and I am completely confident that most of the more learned members would agree with my list.

As to your comment about the Fall of Gondolin (the tale really isn't told in the Silmarillion, there is a much abridged version not doing any justice to it). As I have said, the notes are invaluable - in notes on the text we are told that there were not hundreds of Balrogs but at most seven.

And as for the Dragons....I do not think you are thinking of the right creature when you describe them as, "mechanical, metallic creatures". I realize that they are said to be "dragons of fire", however, it is also said that "the snakes of fire may not climb the hill for its steepness". The mettalic and mechanical beasts you are talking of are, I think, unnamed. But are described as flowing like rivers of metel.

Therefore I think those are different beasts, thought of by Maeglin. In the tale of Turumbar and the Foaloke, Glorund (Glaurung), while a bit mettalic was not mechanical, but his cunning and wily old self.

Therefore, BoLT is not all that outragous as you have made it out to be. I stand firm in my opinion that the Silmarillion is not final canon on its content (when in conflict with HoME that is, not speaking of inconsistancies with LoTR).
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 12:30
Therefore, BoLT is not all that outragous as you have made it out to be. I stand firm in my opinion that the Silmarillion is not final canon on its content (when in conflict with HoME that is, not speaking of inconsistancies with LoTR).


*sigh* Please actually read what I have written. And have a look at my articles on the Noldor in Elrond's Library. I've used the Fall of Gondolin extensively in those articles, and I am quite happy to do so.

But you didn't answer my question:

.... So ... we have an issue ... to take the total account in BoLT as canon and ignore the changes to the Balrogs of the Silmarillion? To take the BoLT account as canon apart from the little changes? Or to say that the BoLT account is pretty good but not actually canon.


And as for the Dragons....I do not think you are thinking of the right creature when you describe them as, "mechanical, metallic creatures". I realize that they are said to be "dragons of fire", however, it is also said that "the snakes of fire may not climb the hill for its steepness". The mettalic and mechanical beasts you are talking of are, I think, unnamed. But are described as flowing like rivers of metel.


Well, if you say so .... I haven't read and analysed the story for at least a week

What you don't seem to understand at all is that I absolutely agree with nearly every point you are making. What I don't agree with are the conclusions you draw from them. And there I think you are fairly misguided.

I think some of your ideas are interesting - for example, the primary - quaternary canon. But I just don't believe that its workable.

-- Well, I for one do not trust popular opinion to be a good determining factor in what is and is not canon. To use the age-old question: If everyone else jumped off the Grand Canyon, would you? I do not think that majority rules is a good view to take on canon, it depends what the author says.


Well! If only Tolkien was still alive.... But he's not, and therefore depending on what the author says is clearly silly in this case. So what would you rely on? Why would you not accept a majority decision on what was canon?

There are not many Letters from the early years. I am putting this out for anyone who doesn't know (I am confident that you do), but as early as Letter 37 it is practically 1940 (like 11 days short). I do agree that not everything in them can be considered absolute and pure truth (note the disclaimer I had for them). However, the great majority of them should be regarded as very high canon.


LOL. Yes, #37 is from 1940 ... but we have to reach #173 before RotK is published. Which is a good halfway through the book ..... so even by using that criteria, only 1/2 the book would be *anything* like canon.

What is your definition of "canon"?

For me, a canonical source is one that I can cite and have no fear of contradiction from other canonical materials.

So, lets look at the books. LotR is canon. Well - something has to be The Hobbit ... well, almost. There is little that is contradicted in other books, and where it is contradicted, it tends to be in LotR.

And everything else ....? Silmarillion - slightly shady, but pretty canonical (apart from the bits that CT has said he got wrong ). HoME - as I've said lots of times before - bits, yes, but the books as a whole, no.

Maedhros
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 03:09
*sigh* Please actually read what I have written


Do you mean this? I carefully read everything that you wrote.

But you didn't answer my question


Just because I did not quote your question and state a direct answer does not mean I didn't answer you. I was implying in my post that BoLT was the canonical sourse for the Fall of Gondorlin, when we take into account the alterations and statements made after the initial tale.

Well, if you say so .... I haven't read and analysed the story for at least a week


I sense sarcasm. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are the only knowledgeable person here.

Why would you not accept a majority decision on what was canon?


Because when CT admits there are errors in the Silmarillion, I think it safe to assume that he is serious, and correct. He knows more about his father's world then anyone else, so I trust him, not the general voice.

LOL. Yes, #37 is from 1940 ... but we have to reach #173 before RotK is published. Which is a good halfway through the book ..... so even by using that criteria, only 1/2 the book would be *anything* like canon.


What criteria? The criteria you layed out about only Letters after the publication of LoTR are canonical? Call me silly, but I don't ever recal agreeing with that. I said: However, the great majority of them should be regarded as very high canon. - in contradiction to your idea. I we accept your idea, then we are forced to ignore Letter 131's (footnote) statement that Hobbits are a branch of the Human race.

What do I consider canon? True words. The version the Author settles upon. So usually, it is the latest version, unless Tolkien noted that he did not want to keep it or CT is led to believe that he did not want to keep it. That is why I do not care about inconsistancies, for the higher canon will trump the lower.

To expand upon my list a little: If there is contradictions, dates should always be checked, and commentary on the text of course. Whichever has a stronger case will be the canonical version.

Everything Tolkien wrote has been canon at one time or another, however, it's stance today is determined by how he altered the tales. Therefore, I am of the opinion that determining canon must go in a case-by-case approach, which means that the Silmarillion does not automatically trump HoME.
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 03:19
I sense sarcasm


Pfffffff! It's far too late at night for my brain to manage to produce sarcasm!!!

What criteria? The criteria you layed out about only Letters after the publication of LoTR are canonical? Call me silly, but I don't ever recal agreeing with that. I said: However, the great majority of them should be regarded as very high canon. - in contradiction to your idea. I we accept your idea, then we are forced to ignore Letter 131's (footnote) statement that Hobbits are a branch of the Human race.


All I am trying to do is understand your approach to the question of canon. What you are saying is so different to my own ideas that I am asking questions in order to try and understand your point of view. With Letters, I don't understand which or what you think is canonical, so I am asking questions to try and get you to tell me your thoughts on the matter. If you do not wish to, then fine I'm just interested....

Therefore, I am of the opinion that determining canon must go in a case-by-case approach, which means that the Silmarillion does not automatically trump HoME.


And no-one here has ever said that the Silmarillion would *automatically* trump HoME. As I've said, I can think off the top of my head of a good number of instances where I would take information from HoME over the information in the Silmarillion.

However, overall I would still rate the Silmarillion as more canonical than HoME.

Maedhros
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 03:40
Sorry for any misunderstanding between us, and for any of my comments which migh have been barbed. I am used to heated discussion with people who are not always.....tactful, and thus I tend to slip into that mindset at times.

You can ask away about my thoughts though.

As I've said, I can think off the top of my head of a good number of instances where I would take information from HoME over the information in the Silmarillion


This is part of the reason why I value the Silmarillion and HoME equally. I do not think the Silmarillion is a worthless book, far from it. Not that you implied that I though such, I just want to make sure nobody gets the wrong impression from my posts. However, due to admitted mistakes by CT, of both number are size - and becasue he did not have all the writings of his father collected and studied when he made the Silmarillion - I choose to vale the Sil and HoME equally, checking - as I am becoming borishly repetitive saying - the dates and comentary.

I dearly wish that CT would rewrite the Silmarillion with what he now knows. If he did it, then I think there would be a book that would contain the correct version of the stories and everyone (I?) could be much more content.
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 04, 2004 04:00
I dearly wish that CT would rewrite the Silmarillion with what he now knows. If he did it, then I think there would be a book that would contain the correct version of the stories and everyone (I?) could be much more content.


*sigh* wouldn't it be wonderful?

What's really funny here, is that on CoE, I'm pretty much the biggest proponent for the use of HoME you'll find. I love and adore those books! But I also love and adore the Silmarillion, and when a version of a story in the Silmarillion clashes with a version in HoME, I will choose to accept the Silmarillion version (except for on a few occasions where CT has made it clear that he got it wrong).

We all have a problem as Tolkien fans, and that is the fact that Tolkien was too productive. He kept rewriting and rewriting. The SIlmarillion we have at the moment is just Silmarillion version 1. If he had lived, I'm sure the 1st published version would be different. And I'm equally sure that by now we would be on version 3 or 4. And probably the same with LotR. So therefore we should really say that HoME is in the process of creation just as much as the Silmarillion.

And during that process of creation, its possible to fall into dead ends, take wrong turnings etc. Irk. That sounds particularly stupid. But what I mean is that I wouldn't always take the absolute last writing on a subject to be the canonical version. If (hypoethetical example) a story was pretty much consistent through the Silmarillion and some HoME versions, and then it changed in a single discussion towards the end of HoME, unless there was a *good* reason to accept that new version, I would certainly think twice about abandoning the well-established concepts.

Another little issue I have with putting HoME on a level of canon with the Silmarillion is that it cuts off access to that canon to a vast amount of Tolkien readers. Most people who enjoy Tolkien will eventually muddle through the Silmarillion. An awful lot won't buy HoME let alone wade through it. This is a big reason why I choose to use the Silmarillion. And add bits and bobs from HoME onto it as often as possible
Kadaveri
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 10, 2005 01:01
Christopher Tolkien made it very clear that The Silmarillion is not an accurate book. The problem is, people don't listen to him. If Tolkien had finished The Silmarillion and published it, it wouldn't look anything like The Silmarillion we have today. The Silmarillion is not draft 1, it is not any draft of Tolkien's. None of the versions of The Quenta Silmarillion that Tolkien wrote look anything like the published Silmarillion. The Silmarillion wasn't written by Tolkien.

A lot of what is written in The Silmarillion was written by Christopher, like he said, he was going for consistency. Tolkien didn't write anything consistently in his Quenta Silmarillion stories. Everything Tolkien wrote on The Silmarillion can be found in the HoME, nothing is missed out. There are many things in The Silmarillion that are neither in the HoME or Tolkien's words.

The Ruin of Doriath chapter is mostly written by Christopher because Tolkien never came anywhere near finishing it. What Tolkien actually wrote were lots of obscure bits of information that don't come anywhere near 'a story.'
Christopher Tolkien took these obscure passages together and wrote much of the story around them. Most of it isn't actually Tolkien's words. Christopher wanted to tell a good story, the only way he could do that was to write some of it himself.

There is a huge debate all over the web on what the Orcs were made from. Elves... or Men. The Silmarillion makes the Orcs from Elves theory to be pretty much fact when Tolkien never wrote it this way. He said that the most probable theory is that they are from Men. There are people of reason on both sides of the debate of course, I personally belong to the 'Orcs from Men' camp. But it is extremely annoying when someone says this debate is 'dumb' or 'stupid' because it clearly states in The Silmarillion they were made from Elves. The Silmarillion may state this, but Tolkien didn't. The Silmarillion was not written by Tolkien. Strangely enough, Christopher Tolkien actually says that the 'Orcs from Men' theory is without doubt the most likely. This was, of course, after he published The Silmarillion. Using The Silmarillion in debates is only useful for the most basic of things. Once the discussion goes into some depth considering it to be canon is absurd.

A recent notice on how The Silmarillion is not to be considered canon is that in Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad chapter we have a character called 'The Captain of Morgoth. A lot of people were confused as to who this individual was exactly. It was revealed that Tolkien never wrote this character at all and Christopher inserted him for unknown reasons. So this 'Captain of Morgoth' didn't actually exist. This is just a single case, there are countless others.

A famous edit of Tolkien's comes from the 'Balrogs wings' debate which has confused people. In the Silmarillion we are given the passage: "swiftly they arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."
This was written by Christopher Tolkien. Many people have used this passage in the aforementioned debate. What Tolkien actually wrote was: "swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."

Although I am actually against Balrog wings I believe passionately that we must only use passages Tolkien wrote himself to make it a fair debate. There are countless edits like this that completely change the structure of the sentence. My research on Balrogs has shown me how confusing using The Silmarillion is, the HoME are much better to use. In the list of canonical works, I put The Silmarillion at the very bottom, even below earlier HoME like The Book of Lost Tales. Because at least with the BoLT we can use it to observe how Tolken's conceptions change over time. In The Silmarillion that is not possible. It is useless. If the Silmarillion says something that isn't in any of the HoME, it is always wrong. Using The Silmarillion is almost as bad as using David Day. All it does is throws mud into already dirtied waters, it is a hindrance.

Tolkien's handwriting was very messy. Christopher had a very hard time reading what Tolkien wrote and he made some mistakes. I can't remember many at the top of may head but I remember something about Finarfin's family tree. Someone was said to be Finarfin's son in The Silmarillion when they weren't, the person mentioned was actully his grandson. Christopher later admitted it as a 'mistake'. Then there's always the parentage of Gil-Galad to consider.

In reality, The Silmarillion is a book littered with errors. There are contradictory conceptions from decades apart put together as truth. Key words and sentences that Tolkien wrote deleted. Many paragraphs that come from nothing Tolkien actually wrote. It cannot be considered canon, the definition of the nature of this book means isn't canon. Christopher Tolkien himself said he wasn't going for accuracy, why don't people listen to him? The Silmarillion is not canon.

[Edited on 10/4/2005 by Kadaveri]

[Edited on 10/4/2005 by Kadaveri]
Figwit
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 10, 2005 10:35
Lol, well, I'm going to act stupid and just say what I consider canon:

The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit
The Silmarillion in correspondence with the Letters
HoME (though atalante knows how much I hate it :evil
UT

It's rubbish, in my personal and humble opinion, to go around debating this overly much. I mean, it's obvious that 'The Silmarillion' wasn't Tolkien's work - because, for one, it contains too many discontinuities for that, but I'm of the opinion that a work of art, as it is produced, goes off to live a life of its own. And the life of 'The Sil' was that it's been accepted by the majority of readers as complementary to 'The Lord of the Rings' and not secondary in nature at all.

This sort of academic discussions always ends up with both parties getting frustrated, because you simply can't proove your point. The image you construct in your mind of how the mythology works, influences the books you'll use. Me, for instance, I only read U.T. once (except the last bits) and the same could be said for most of the HoME (except the three books about LOTR) because - for me - LOTR is he centrepiece of the work. Not because Tolkien wrote it yadayada, but it's a non-elvish point of view - and I don't think Elves are the most important thing in Tolkien's tale. I think Men are, Men and mortality and everything inbetween, so I would naturally place the work that deals with this at the heart. For me, LOTR is canon.

But someone who thinks the centre of Tolkien's mythology are the Elves (and I'm not saying this is not true), would find very little of interest in LOTR. So he would take 'The Sil' as major piece - and if the Sil weren't considered canon, that would be a major problem. It would mean you could say hardly anything about Elves or the Valar without referring to Letters of HoME.

And I would also like to point out that both 'Letters' and 'HoME' are edited and selected. If Tolkien had had a say in it, perhaps he would have left letters out, or would have added different comments. Christopher Tolkien's editorials in HoME are far from objective: they are his interpretations of what happens. However subtle, the readers is influenced by the selections of Letters and notes in both, to create an image of the professor that also fits C. Tolkien's.
If you would want 'purity', that means you could only use LOTR, The Hobbit and those daft Tales of Tom Bombadil... but that would limit us too much.

Mmmm... I haven't been very coherent have I? I probably just repeated what you guys already said, but well, thought I'd put my two cents in.
LinweSingollo
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 11, 2005 01:29
Well, this discussion was an eye-opener for me and no mistake! Apparently I've misunderstood the term 'canon'. I've always blithely assumed everything penned by Tolkien was canon whether edited by his son or not. (gosh, I feel naïve). That the Sil is not considered canon by many is rather a shock to me. Looks like I'll have to do some research on this as I'm feeling a bit confused about it all now.
"To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees." J.R.R. Tolkien
Kadaveri
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 11, 2005 02:29
This is how I consider the canonical table goes.

1. The Lord of the Rings. This is complete canon, everything in this book is true because of the amount of work Tolkien put into it and it was published by him.

2. The Letters and The Hobbit. These are mostly canon and can usually be taken as such. One muse take care however, if something is in direct contradiction to LotR it is in the wrong. Each of Tolkien’s letters must be analysed individually before it can be considered canon. I suppose The Hobbit can be considered canon, but to a certain degree. If we conclude that the Hobbit is perfectly canonical we must conclude guns exist in Middle-earth. Gandalf knows what one is. There are many other misplaced modernities and anachronisms in The Hobbit. If those are ignored as ‘mistakes’ then The Hobbit is mainly canon.

3. HoME volumes 6-9. These are Tolkien’s drafts for The Lord of the Rings. Great care must be utilised when using them because many of the concepts were abandoned or changed. When it is in contradiction to The Lord of the Rings It cannot be considered correct. Even if there is no contradiction if the statements do not support one enough using them is risky. If (and this is a big ‘If’) writings in these books actually back up what LotR is saying and supports it then it can be considered canonical. If this ‘if’ is true then they can be a great help in finding out how Tolkien’s mind was working. For example: in his description of the Balrog in LotR Tolkien uses a lot of figurative language, too much even. Using LotR only it is very difficult to determine when Tolkien is talking literally and when he is talking figuratively. In his drafts he wasn’t so figurative, so they can be of great help in finding out what s literal and what is not since these writings back up LotR.

4. HoME volumes 10-12. These are mostly Tolkien’s later writings on The Silmarillion, much of these were not accessible or ‘uninterpretable’ to Christopher Tolkien while writing The Silmarillion so they weren’t used. A pity. They are much better at researching Tolkien’s world than the earlier Silmarillion, which most of the writings on the published Silmarillion come from. Many were abandoned or changed drastically.

5. Unfinished Tales. These are, by definition, unfinished. If they are contradictory in any way to the works given above they are incorrect. One of the most famous pieces of information is that Tolkien names on of the Nazgul in here. However, since Tolkien never ever used the name again in his life it would seem that he regretted it. The Nazgul have no identity, they are slaves to Sauron’s will. If they had names they would have identities, so they can’t have names. Tolkien left the Nazgul unnamed and mysterious for a reason, this draft where one of the Nazgul is named cannot be accepted as fact. There are many other contradictions in this book that I will not go into. It is only to be used as a piece of interest and a few god stories, they aren’t canonical.

6. HoMe volumes 1-5. These are some of the first tales Tolkien ever wrote. Almost everything in these books Tolkien changed or abandoned at a later date. Although it is very interesting to see how Tolkien’s thoughts changed over time these aren’t books that fits into his mythology. They are only there for interest and to observe Tolkien’s idea evolve, nothing else, nothing more. A good example is that Tolkien has Gondolin attacked with an army that include over 1000 Balrogs. If he meant true Balrogs this is crazy, but in his original conceptions Balrogs were a race in their own right.

7. The Silmarillion. I’ve already explained why. Not canon at all because it isn’t written by Tolkien. When Christopher wrote the book he was trying to make a good story, and it is a great story. But it isn’t accurate, it is useless when researching Tolkien’s works.

[Edited on 11/4/2005 by Kadaveri]
atalante_star
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: April 13, 2005 08:48
I think canon depends as much on common sense as anything else. Of course we have LotR as 100% canon, but then everything else contains shades of grey.

We could say that the final versions of each story should be taken as canon, but what if one story had existed in very similar form througout the mythology, and then Tolkien tried a very different version as a trial just before his death. Which would you consider more realistic?

We could say that stuff published later would be most accurate, but the most complete account we have of the fall of Gondolin is contained in BoLT.

There are exceptions to any rule we could come up with about canon. So I say just this - use common sense and what you feel right about taking as canon.
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 13, 2007 03:50
Now that we have a new work published, The Children of Hurin, should we consider it to be canon?
I, for one, see no problem considering the info in this book to be canon. To me the list of works considered canon is this;
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Silmarillion
The Children of Hurin

Some of the Information gleaned from The Unfinished tales, and the H.O.M.E. series, except for that of the early versions of LOTR, can be considered canonical; mainly background info on the seven stones, the lives and habits of the various races, the rulers of Numenor, etc but it is often difficult to reach agreement which info is canon and which isn't.
I generally consider that most of the background info that doesn't contravene or disagree with the 4 works listed above can be considered canon. Of course there are still many problems as there is often more than one version of a story to choose , such as the History of Galadriel and Celeborn, and no way to decide which of these versions is the 'right' one

[Edited on 13/7/2007 by PotbellyHairyfoot]
cirdaneth
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 13, 2007 04:38
There is a rather lengthy essay written by Steuard Jensen on this topic - he works through the ideas of canonicity in great detail. A link is here.
Thanks PB. Just a reminder and repeat too, of the link to Steuard Jensens's interesting essay on canon that Atalante mentioned earlier on this page.
LadyBeruthiel
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 13, 2007 09:43
Well, I'm pleased to know that some do not consider the Slimarillion canonical Tolkien. That makes me feel so much better about never being able to get through it; it just bores me. :blush: So do the other works written or heavily edited by CT; he's simply not the writer his father was.

But where would you put the charming lesser tales--Leaf by Niggle, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Smith of Wooton Major? And the essay on Faerie Tales?

Forgive me for having skimmed the thread instead of reading it in detail, but is the criterion for canonicity the authenticity of Tolkien's authorship,or the acknowledged literary value of the work? Perhaps its influence on other writers? Probably LOTR and The Hobbit fit all three of those; the Sil and the histories might be secondary. And the aforementioned tales?

P.S. OK, I've just read the Seuard essay. He uses authority or authenticity and excellence as criteria. Once again, LOTR and Hobbit, hands down. The literary quality of the Sil, HoME, and Unfinished Tales is mediocre at best, IMO. Question about the lesser tales still stands.

[Edited on 13/7/2007 by LadyBeruthiel]
DwarfMaster
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: November 16, 2009 05:45
I take all of the works that Tolkien wrote as "canon", even though he himself may not have finished them off(as Christopher Tolkien taking over some of the Children of Hurin), but my list of "canon" includes The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the Children of Hurin. I know not of the Histories of Middle-Earth since I have not read them. What I would not consider "canon" are the early parts of the Lord of the Rings that Tolkien wrote that he revised and re-wrote(such as a different scene at the breaking of the fellowship).
The Silmarillion was primarilly done by Tolkien, and is a collection of a bunch of stories that he wrote. It seems to be accurate with the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (which are the supreme authourities to correctness and what not) and is not contradictory, and even though Christopher T. may have edited some, I take it like as if it were actually history of Middle-Earth without any doubts.
Christopher Tolkien may have edited and written some things in the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin, but he seems to have near perfect Tolkienesque and accuracy when he writes, and he has more available documents to look at than has been published. I assume he knows what he's doing. Generally I take the works as if they were all as "true" as each other and enjoy the outcome.
glorfindil
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: March 22, 2010 08:38
I was just wondering, what is considered 'canon' amongst all the works about Middle Earth?
If you only count works that were written by JRR Tolkien himself, then do you have to disregard 'The Silmarillion', 'Unfinished Tales' and the 'History of Middle-Earth' series because they were partly written by Christopher Tolkien?
I count all of them as canon because Christapher only completed the simarillian and the unfinished tales and the historys of middle earth, But the things that were writen by fans and authers that made the whole thing up are not canon but I think that goes without saying.
Elthir
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: May 18, 2010 10:47
The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Road Goes Ever On, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil: all works finished and sent to publishers by Tolkien himself, intended for a readership. That's my canon anyway.

While inner consistency matters, Tolkien also indulged in a measure of purposed inconsistency, but in ways he felt would make his legendarium feel more real to the reader. One instance might be The Elessar where Tolkien purposely gives the reader two conflicting versions. He knows both tales cannot be internally true, but with certain matters a bit of vagueness can make his work echo the uncertainties found in Primary World 'collections' of ancient texts. The Drowning of Anadûnê would be another example, with purposed variations reflecting authorship and transmission.

Anyway, for creating my own internal history of the Elder Days I use The History of Middle-Earth series, even though this is a rather broad statement -- with Tolkien-published text concerning the Elder Days (what there is of it anyway) still first and foremost.



[Edited on 19/5/2010 by Elthir]
LadyBrooke
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 18, 2010 05:55
Being a bit of a Tolkien heretic I've always mixed and matched various things to form my canon. Makes it more interesting that way.

What I don't understand is why some people (not just in this fandom) are always so vehement that they are right. It's not like the world going to end if we can't agree. My Celeborn is a Sindarian Prince from Doriath that loves books, your Celeborn is a Teleri fisherman who met Galadriel in Valinor. My Feanor is a misguided, possibly paranoid schizophrenic Prince, your Feanor is an evil psychopath who has the bodies of his enemies lining his basement. Who cares? If everybody had the same opinion we'd have nothing to discuss.
Elthir
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 19, 2010 04:03
(...) My Celeborn is a Sindarian Prince from Doriath that loves books, your Celeborn is a Teleri fisherman who met Galadriel in Valinor.


Well, mine is Sindarin too, but Celeborn is a perfect example of author-published text versus (plenty of) draft texts that were never sent to publishers by the author himself (and some possibly written while the author had forgotten what he did publish).

So my question is: how are such texts of equal character or status with what Tolkien himself chose to publish?

Who cares? If everybody had the same opinion we'd have nothing to discuss.


So let's discuss, with no need for vehemence I agree


With Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-Earth series, one is essentially being allowed to look at private writings that have not necessarily passed the author's final test. In some cases the texts are only first drafts, rough in nature, or brief notes; and arguably this 'unpublished' corpus in general includes texts that may have been abandoned by Tolkien but simply survived for later publication. While I generally use these sources to construct my internal history of the First Age for example, conflict with already published description is a very different matter however.

This is not a negative comment in any way directed at Christopher Tolkien. I love that he published his father's draft material! but that doesn't change the nature of the material in any case, nor mean that JRRT himself necessarily would have published a given text or idea. So again, Celeborn is a great example. He was variously (in some cases only seemingly):

Noldorin
Nandorin
Sindarin
Avarin
Telerin

But only one of those was published by JRRT himself, and in fact he published it twice, once in the 1950s and again in the 1960s. It was meant not only for consumption by a readership at large, but for a future readership, and Tolkien himself could have no idea that his private papers and letters would become known to that same readership.

And it's no accident that you chose the Telerin idea as an example above, because that's really the one that seemingly has legs in this debate, and that's because it is obviously the latest idea JRRT had.

True enough, but that doesn't mean all other considerations evaporate, including Tolkien's memory which even he noted late in life was becoming a problem. Even if Tolkien had anywhere written or implied that he was aware that Celeborn as a Teler from Aman was stepping upon already published work (he did not as far as I'm aware, but if so), he still hasn't truly decided to publish something... until he does!

Actually, it's quite possible that Tolkien ultimately realizing what he had published about Celeborn (and Galadriel) explains why the draft of the Telerin tale never got beyond an adumbrated state... well, there might be any number of reasons of course! including that Tolkien was interrupted, and later simply ran out of time...

... but the scenario I note can easily be among them, at least.



[Edited on 20/7/2010 by Elthir]
LadyBrooke
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 20, 2010 05:44
So let's discuss, with no need for vehemence I agree


Exactly. I like discussion, I just don't like the idea that I get talking to some people that they want to kill me for saying something.

With Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-Earth series, one is essentially being allowed to look at private writings that have not necessarily passed the author's final test.


And that's what makes his work so interesting to me. To be able to track an author's work and see the development to his writing. It's a virtual goldmine for a student debating the merits of fantasy writing. So many people think that fantasy writing is easy but it's not.

So again, Celeborn is a great example. He was variously (in some cases only seemingly):

Noldorin
Nandorin
Sindarin
Avarin
Telerin

...

And it's no accident that you chose the Telerin idea as an example above, because that's really the one that seemingly has legs in this debate, and that's because it is obviously the latest idea JRRT had.


It's interesting to me how the Telerian idea is the one that has taken hold because to me it's the least proable of all of them. Nandorin, Sindarin, or Avarin are the easiest to reconcile with LotR, and at least in the Noldorian explanation their aren't the problems that come with the Telerin explanation. Galadriel and Celeborn would have had to have left around the same time as the other Noldor. If Galadriel didn't slay any of the Teleri herself and Celeborn managed to escape being killed it begs questions such as, "Did Celeborn just run off with out his King's permission?" Logically Olwe would have had bigger issues then allowing somebody leave to go to M-E, so did Celeborn just skip town in the middle of the massive cleanup that must have been happening? What about any relatives he had there? Some of them must have died so how did he deal with being surrounded by Kinslayers the entire way to M-E? Did he and Galadriel steal a rowboat to cross the ocean? That would have been the only way to avoid them. :banghead:
Elthir
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Post RE: What is considered 'canon'?
on: July 21, 2010 04:11
Tolkien did note (in this very late version) that Celeborn and Galadriel planned to build a ship, and after the battle at Swanhaven 'Celeborn's ship was saved', but I too wonder if JRRT was thinking of every issue he might be raising when considering this late idea. Among other things...

A) It had already been published that Galadriel was a leader in the rebellion (I'm not aware that Tolkien makes any indication he had remembered this when writing the late tale).

B) Celeborn had likewise been already published as Sindarin.

C) Was JRRT really planning to make Galadriel and Celeborn first cousins? as they are in this late outline.

D) If Celeborn was from Aman, what is the explanation for him staying behind in Middle-earth at the point when Galadriel sails? also considering that Tolkien had published concerning Galadriel: 'But it was impossible for one of the High Elves to overcome the yearning for the Sea, and the longing to pass over it again to the land of their former bliss. She was now burdened with this desire.' The Road Goes Ever On.


It is interesting that when Tolkien considered that Celeborn did not sail with Galadriel it prompted the idea that he was seemingly Avarin (this relies on new information published by Hammond and Scull incidentally). But even if JRRT did not mean Avarin specifically, when Tolkien is explaining why Celeborn did not sail with Galadriel, he has Celeborn being not from Aman in any case.

Not that Tolkien's inventive mind couldn't come up with acceptable enough explanations, but again, I wonder if he was even really considering some of this -- especially the rather important (to my mind) history of Galadriel's role in the Rebellion being already in print!


Lady Beruthiel wrote: Well, I'm pleased to know that some do not consider the Slimarillion canonical Tolkien. That makes me feel so much better about never being able to get through it; it just bores me. So do the other works written or heavily edited by CT; he's simply not the writer his father was.


I'm wondering why you add here that Christopher Tolkien was not the writer his father was.

The 1977 Silmarillion was not written by Tolkien in the obvious (and quite basic) sense that he did not complete a finished version himself (not an updated version anyway), nor can anyone say what Tolkien's finished and published version would certainly have been, since he would not be bound to try to stick to existing versions for example, and could create as he went along, with new ideas occuring to him (such as the Ambarussa legend).

But to my mind the 1977 Silmarillion is also very much JRR Tolkien with respect to the extant material used to craft it. One can see a lot of the sources used for the published Silmarillion within the later Annals, both the Annals of Aman and the Grey Annals, and the later Quenta Silmarillion proper (and other sources of course, including the Silmarillion of the 1930s). With respect to Tolkien as a writer in the 1950s, we might make especial note of the earlier parts of Quenta Silmarillion, as Tolkien never really updated some of the later chapters in this tradition.

Christopher Tolkien himself has warned that even The History of Middle-Earth is not a complete account of every authorial change (his private History of the Silmarillion is longer and more detailed), but still, one gets a pretty detailed picture nonetheless.

Anyway, obviously you are free to find Quenta Silmarillion boring, but your statement above seems to imply that Christopher Tolkien's hand is at least a factor in your dislike of the Silmarillion or the Silmarillion material.

Or if I am misinterpreting this, can you explain what you mean a little more fully?


[Edited on 23/7/2010 by Elthir]
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