So, one of the interesting side-effects of studying an author's works is that the better you know them the more inevitable they look. It's like listening to a classic recording of a favorite song or watching a well-known film: rejected drafts, alternate takes, deleted scenes all show how a work could have been different than it wound up being, yet the path chosen becomes very much the 'right' path in our minds. This is why glimpses into roads not taken are so important.
I was looking at a good example of this during my recent time at Marquette--a document I'd never looked at before, one of the last pieces of LotR manuscript to reach Marquette (Mss-4, Box 2, folder 16, pages 1-2: Early Contents Material). This is essentially a collection of Tables of Contents for LotR put together at various times.* I mentioned in my last post how Tolkien totaled up the page count of each of LotR's six Books to get an idea of just how long the completed book was. His purpose for doing so seems to have been to get a sense of how much room there was for ancillary material. He had already allotted within his 927 page, 89,000 word total a foreword (12 pages) and the Epilogue (5 pages); now on that same sheet he jotted down titles of things he wanted to include in the Appendix:
Of the languages of the Third Age and of Translation The Calendar Chronology of the Tale The Script and the Runes Genealogical Tables Maps 1. General Map of the Westlands 2. The Shire 3. Gondor and Mordor List of Names with notes on their pronunciation and derivation Of the Rings of Power The Fall of Numenor Of Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel Chronology of the Third Age: The Tale of Years The Heirs of Isildur The House of Eorl Of Durin's Race Angerthas Moria Pennas Golodrina Lammas Veleriandzen Dangweth Pengolodh Lay of Luthien Pennas iNgeleid
Most of these pieces made it into the six Appendices in some form and fashion; others had to wait for the 1977 Silmarillion, like the Fall of Numenor (in the form of The Akallabeth) and 'Of the Rings of Power', and a few never quite made it in, like the List of Names,which seems to be ancestral to the promised (but never completed) Index to the first edition.
Of the mooted but omitted works, I take the Pennas Golodrina to mean something like 'The History of the Noldor'), the Lammas Veleriandzen or 'Languages of Beleriand' I assume is either one of the Lhammas texts printed in HME.V.167ff or a projected later development thereof. The Dangweth Pengolodh ultimately made it into the History of Middle-earth, but not by much: this explanation of how the language of immortals can change appears towards the end of the series, THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH (HME.XII.395-402).
The most interesting of all these suggested additions by far, for me, is the idea that Tolkien thought of including the entire LAY OF LUTHIEN within the covers of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I can see the logic of that -- it forms a good matched pair with 'Of Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel' -- but, like the Lammas (the history of the languages spoken on a continent destroyed more than three millennia before), it might be thought of as too much of a good thing, not directly connected with the story of The Ring.
One thing I wish I'd had time to work out is the probable date of these notes. That shd be determinable by looking at the various typescripts of the completed book and comparing the page tallies of each Book to those listed on the accompanying Table of Contents. I suspect it's not long after he completed the typescript (which he loaned to the Lewis Brothers in October & November 1949). Certainly it seems to be when he's thinking of LotR as a standalone book, rather than accompanied by a separate SILMARILLION volume (as was his plan by February 1950); otherwise things like the LAY OF LUTHIEN, the Dangweth, the Fall of Numenor, the Lammas, and esp. the Pennas, wd naturally go in that Silm. volume instead. And I think that once he'd abandoned the idea of publishing THE SILMARILLION alongside LotR he wd have been trying to restrict himself to essentials, rather than casting his net as widely as we see here.Unfortunately I have not yet had time to check Christopher Tolkien's account of the creation of the Appendices (HME.XII), which I suspect will shed a good deal of light on all this.
--John R., still in Dayquil/Nyquil land
current reading: Wm Morris (THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END), Renee Vink (WAGNER & TOLKIEN). current viewing: DOCTOR WHO (the Second Doctor).
*one of the more interesting among them notes the date at which each chapter's events occur, right on the T.o.C. page
So, back from Marquette and almost, almost over my cold, I'm pondering what was probably the most interesting document I saw while there, a two-page sheet on which Tolkien was trying to work out just what shd go in the Appendices (more on this later, in its own post).
Part of this, of course, depended on how much room he had: how long was the work itself? By his own calculations on that sheet,* Tolkien worked it out to roughly 89,000 words.
Now, this is far less than he told Stanley Unwin during the period when he was trying to get Unwin to reject the book so Tolkien cd take it to Milton Waldman instead. In February 1950 Tolkien tells Unwin the newly finished book is 600,000 words (S&H Chronology .358). A month later this tally has risen to a million words (S&H.358), and by April to 'one million, two hundred thousand words' (.361); the hapless Unwin was pricing out an edition of '2,500 copies in two large volumes, each of 1392 pages' (.359).
So we know how Tolkien derived the figure of 89,000 words: the question becomes, how did he come up with the 600 thousand and then 1.2 million?
The 600k/1.2 million is the easier of these two questions to answer. Tolkien had told Naomi Mitchison in mid-December 1949 that he hoped to soon see in print 'two long books' (.354): this is clearly (1) LotR and (2) Silm. Since Tolkien was insisting the works be treated as two volumes of a single work, Unwin seems to have taken him at his word and priced it out accordingly, with each volume being 600,000 words in length.
The harder question, for me, is how Tolkien got from his estimate of 89,000 words, probably arrived at shortly after he completed the typescript (Oct 1949; C&H.352), to a claim just three months later that it was more than six times that length. The answer's does not hinge on the appendices, since both tallies omit them: Tolkien is clear in his Feb. 1950 letter to Unwin that the 600,000 total is the book's length 'even without certain necessary adjuncts' (.358) -- i.e., the appendices material. I hate to say it, but I suspect Tolkien blew up the total in order to discourage Allen & Unwin, not realizing how tenacious they wd be in hopes of working out an acceptable compromise.
Which raises the question: how long is the book, really? If I remember rightly, Lin Carter pegged it at a quarter of a million words, but I have not had time to go back through his little book and confirm or correct my memory on this point. Various internet sites each offer a different total:
So, I'm always pleased to come across a reference to Dunsany's works, especially when it's one that adds to the evidence of just how popular Dunsany was back at the height of his career (from about 1910 to 1920).*
This one appears in the book JILL THE RECKLESS by P. G. Wodehouse (circa 1920). At 17% of the way through comes this little exchange:
[our heroine is dining at the Savoy with a childhood acquaintance with whom she has just been reunited:]
". . . What are you looking at? [asked Jill.] Is something interesting going on behind me?”
He had been looking past her out into the room.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Only there’s a statuesque old lady about two tables back of you who has been staring at you, with intervals for refreshment, for the last five minutes. You seem to fascinate her.”
“An old lady?”
“Yes, with a glare. She looks like Dunsany’s Bird of the Difficult Eye. Count ten and turn carelessly round. There, at that table. Almost behind you.”
“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Jill. [spotting her prospective mother-in-law, Lady Underhill, sitting with her son Sir Derek Underhill MP, Jill’s stuffy fiance.]
The reference, of course, is to "The Bird of the Difficult Eye" in THE LAST BOOK OF WONDER (1916).** The most interesting part of this is how P.G.W. just dropped it in with no explanation, as if he expected anyone reading his book wd know about Dunsany’s story.
current reading: THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END by Wm Morris.
*another one can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (1920)
**one of Dunsany's thieves' tales, a sequel to "The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller" in THE BOOK OF WONDER (1912) and of a kind with "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles" and "The Probable Adventure of Three Literary Men" (both in THE BOOK OF WONDER).