Tolkien Gateway

Letter 247

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Revision as of 12:06, 11 June 2011

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 247
RecipientColonel Worskett
Date20 September 1963
Subject(s)Glimpses of stories in The Silmarillion, the Ents

Letter 247 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Tolkien assured Worskett that he could give him one or many volumes about his imaginary world and that he was under contract to do so. Seeing The Lord of the Rings into print though had held up professional work that had taken years of catching up. When his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight went to press this period would be over – soon, he hoped.

However, putting in order the legends of the earlier ages, referred to in the Appendices, would take a lot of work, and Tolkien said he worked slowly. The legends had been written over many years and needed to be made consistent and required integration with The Lord of the Rings. There was also the problem of progressive shape – no simple device like a journey or quest was available.

There was doubt in Tolkien's mind about the undertaking. Part of the attraction of The Lord of the Rings was its glimpses of a large historical background, like viewing far off an unvisited island or the towers of a distant city. Going there destroyed the magic unless new unattainable vistas were revealed. Many of the older legends were pure mythology and nearly all were grim and tragic: what destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor. There were no hobbits and Gandalf only appeared in passing. The only major characters from The Lord of the Rings were Galadriel and Elrond.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had many links not clearly set out. Tolkien had written or sketched them out, but cut them to lighten the boat. Removed were Gandalf's exploratory journeys, his relations with Aragorn and Gondor, Gollum's movements before Moria, and so on. He had written a full account of events prior to the "Unexpected Party" from Gandalf's point of view. It would have appeared during a looking-back conversation in Minas Tirith but had to go.[note 1]

There were no Ents in his older stories because they only came into Tolkien's sight when Treebeard appeared. But since Treebeard knew about the drowned land of Beleriand the Ents would have to come in. Since the War in Beleriand was 7,000 years before Treebeard's meeting with the hobbits the Ents then were not quite the same: less wise, weaker, shyer, and more uncommunicable. Tolkien foresaw one action they took, when they helped Beren defeat the Dwarves who had slain King Thingol and sacked Doriath.

No one knew the origin of the Ents; they had not been mentioned in the "Music". Galadriel believed that after Aulë made the Dwarves, Yavanna besought Eru for the making of the Ents. They were either souls sent to inhabit trees or soul that slowly took on the likeness of trees. The males were devoted to Oromë but the Wives to Yavanna.

Note

  1. It was printed in the Unfinished Tales as "The Quest of Erebor".