The Early History of the Legend
|The Lost Road and Other Writings chapters|
The Early History of the Legend is the first chapter of the first section, "Part One: The Fall of Númenor and the Lost Road", of The Lost Road and Other Writings. Christopher Tolkien doesn't provide a copy of any original writings, but explains how Tolkien conceived of both The Fall of Númenor and The Lost Road.
We agreed that he should try 'space travel', and I should try 'time-travel'. His result is well known. My effort, after a few promising chapters, ran dry: it was too long a way round to what I really wanted to make, a new version of the Atlantis legend. The final scene survives as The Downfall of Númenor.
Lewis's result was Out of the Silent Planet, but Tolkien's abandoned effort was The Lost Road. From a letter written a few years before, Christopher Tolkien suspects that his father's story was already conceived in connection with "The Silmarillion",:10 as Tolkien seems to imply that there was an agreement with Lewis that his version of Atlantis "was to be called Númenor". Humphrey Carpenter confirms this, but Christopher concludes that both the time-travel story and the Númenórean legend were probably written at the same time.:9
In any case, Tolkien explains that he began the story of a father and son travelling back through the different phases of the history, eventually reaching the time of the Downfall of Númenor. But soon he lost interest in the main time-travel plot, and became more interested in Númenor itself.:8 Therefore, he abandoned the story, but the Downfall remained in his legendarium and was later developed as the Second Age.
It is unknown the exact date of the initial conversation of Tolkien and Lewis, although we know that Lewis finished by the autumn of 1937 and Tolkien submitted The Lost Road (unfinished) to Allen & Unwin on 15 November of the same year.
- When Tolkien reinvented Atlantis and Lewis went to Mars: Discovering the dates of The Fall of Númenor and Out of the Silent Planet by John Garth
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part One. The Fall of Númenor and The Lost Road: I. The Early History of the Legend"
- Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p. 170
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "Note on the original submission of the Lay of Leithian", p. 364