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Canon and Tolkien Gateway
For the sake of consistency, in this encyclopedia The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are considered fully canon, but the status of The Silmarillion and other posthumous writings is more complex. In general, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales are treated as canon, but corrections published in The History of Middle-earth generally take precedence. Late writings by Tolkien published in The History of Middle-earth that do not contradict more established texts are also generally treated as canon.
This choice of canon means that this encyclopedia includes a number of corrections to the information in The Silmarillion as published. For example, the article on Gil-galad states that he is the son of Orodreth, the article on Amras mentions his death in the burning of the ships of the Teleri, and Argon, Findis and Irimë have articles of their own. Details of the history of the Nauglamír and the fall of Doriath are treated as uncertain, and the story of the Wanderings of Húrin is accepted as accurate. Information on earlier or alternate versions of the stories is provided when possible.
On Canon and Mythology
Thus, Bilbo's account of The Hobbit may be coloured by his perceptions and personality; while Frodo, Sam, and the other hobbits' accounts in The Lord of the Rings will have a completely different feel and quality to them. Tolkien may not have been completely conscious of this at the time of the earliest conceptions of his writings. But later in life, when he had begun to explore the more distant and remote past of Middle-earth and the various themes that run through it, he was almost certainly aware of this.
When looked at in this light, it is quite easy to reconcile the various versions of the stories and canon of Tolkien's work as being simply the cultural variations of the peoples of Middle-earth in their retelling of these stories.
Canon status of various writings
While readers often differ in their opinions of which writings to treat as canon, this encyclopedia uses the following choices:
- The Hobbit (third edition — canon, author's final intent)
- The Lord of the Rings (second edition — canon, author's final intent)
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (preface is canon, poems are treated as Hobbit folklore)
- The Road Goes Ever On (poems, thus irrelevant to the canon question)
- Bilbo's Last Song (poems, thus irrelevant to the canon question)
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (canon when not in conflict with later writings)
- The Silmarillion:
- Ainulindalë (canon, author's final intent)
- Valaquenta (canon, author's final intent)
- Quenta Silmarillion (mostly canon, except for editing errors and where contradicted by later writings)
- Akallabêth (canon, author's final intent; note that Christopher Tolkien has removed references to Ælfwine)
- Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age (canon, author's final intent)
- Unfinished Tales (mostly canon, except where specifically contradicted by later writings or noted as contradictory in the text)
- The History of Middle-earth (some parts are canon, especially late writings — but see individual parts)
Grey points are concepts such as Enerdhil, Pengolodh or Ælfwine; the latter was a joint point between real history with Tolkien's legendarium, and existed for the most part of Tolkien's conceptual progress until even in Tolkien's late works and personal writings; Christopher Tolkien removed all references to him in the published Silmarillion and for this reason he is considered non-canon by some readers although it's debatable whether Tolkien also dropped him.