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Old 06-09-2020, 01:14 PM   #1
William Cloud Hicklin
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More on round-world vs flat-world

Just re-listened for the first time in forever to Tolkien's 1966 radio interview. Here it is; the relevant bit starts at the 7 minute mark

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFexwNCYenI (it helps if you slow playback down to 75% speed)
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Old 06-14-2020, 10:17 AM   #2
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I found this on the web, assuming it's accurate.
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D. Gerrolt: Hence the ultimate downfall.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Then became only intellectual. It lived then only in memory, it lived in time but not present time. And of course, if Numenor was drowned then the earthly paradise was moved so then you could then get to South America!

(laughing)

Then the world became round… you see it always had been a vast globe. But people can now sail around it… discovered it’s round… that was my solution to the… I wanted to give a form of Atlantis some universal application. The point is really… as they get to it you suddenly see the real colors of the world being now like a bridge….all lines lead to what was.. of course, I don’t know what your theory of Time is but: what was, what is, whatever had an existence must…still, has that same existence…but it’s a…we won’t go, you can’t go too deeply into those things but they really are sailing back to earlier memory.
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Old 06-14-2020, 10:48 AM   #3
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And interesting exercise, at a late date, trying to reconcile RW and FW aspects of his cosmology. I think this represents his "final" word on the matter.

Unfortunately, changing round the early parts of the QS would have required a lot of bulldozing. (Also, he might have been stopped short if he had remembered that, in print, Bombadil talks about the Sun and Moon being created after the Earth.)
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Old 06-14-2020, 11:10 AM   #4
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A transcript which matches Galin's can be found here.

A quick skim shows that the passage in question is one of the least coherent in the whole transcript, and the transcriber clearly had some trouble! I think this bit got tangled the most, and have tried to fix it up:

"I also wanted to give the Fall of Atlantis some universal application. The point is really, I ['m using this [???]] language, as they get to the, you suddenly see the real curvature of the world going down like a bridge. You are on a line that leads to what was."

(I think he also says 'get to sail to America' earlier on, not 'to South America'.)

So: interesting! You can practically hear him skipping mental tracks when he goes from 'the world becomes a vast globe' to 'you see, it always had been'. I think this comes from a time when Tolkien was still transitioning between the two concepts; he initially presents the old Flat-World mythology, but corrects himself mid-thought. That might even be why he gets so incoherent right here.

The whole Time thing is his attempt to retain the Straight Road, which now obviously makes no sense (because it never was a straight path). Now, Valinor is a sort of crystallised memory - a physical incarnation of an earlier point in Time, still accessible but not exactly in the Present. But also not time travel. It's all very mystical.

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Old 06-14-2020, 06:12 PM   #5
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Heheh, yes "curvature" sounds more likely than "colours"


Round world mythology had appeared at least twice before this interview, and I see the statements here as a confirmation of an always round earth, while flat-to-round world tales remain part of mannish myths.


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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
( . . . ) Unfortunately, changing round the early parts of the QS would have required a lot of bulldozing.
Couldn't that depend upon the tradition involved? For example, in my opinion, if we have QS being a mostly Mannish account mixed with certain Elvish tales, we could still have Men awakening with the Sun.


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(Also, he might have been stopped short if he had remembered that, in print, Bombadil talks about the Sun and Moon being created after the Earth.)

May I ask what line of Tom's you're referring to here?

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Old 06-15-2020, 06:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
May I ask what line of Tom's you're referring to here?
[Tom] had now wandered into strange regions beyond their memory and beyond their waking thought, into times when the world was wider, and the seas flowed straight to the western Shore; and still back and on Tom went singing into ancient starlight, when only the Elf-sires were awake.
[...]
"When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless -- before the Dark Lord came from Outside."

__________
While it's certainly true that Tolkien in his last years was looking at "garbled Mannish legends" as his out, that would have been a very difficult solution for several reasons, including the physical presence of Aman during the Journey and the Elves' passing westward at that time (even if the mobile island were written off as myth), and the return of the Exiles after the Silmarils. Somehow the significance of the Trees would have to be maintained in a world where the Sun is already in the sky. The second starkindling would be a serious problem, and the significance of Ursa Major and Orion presented in LR given a completely different historio-mythological background. So, again, it would have taken heavy construction equipment and the digging up of foundations.

But the biggest problem would be this- however misguided the early Numenoreans may have been, and we'll pretend that their visitors from Eressea and their own visits to Lindon didn't set them straight, by the time we're into the Third Age the scholars of Arnor would have been in regular contact with Lindon and especially Rivendell, where the Elves knew better. Heck, Glorfindel personally remembered the Trees and had crossed the Grinding Ice! And then we have the problem of Bilbo, whose Translations from the Elvish was, in the Second Edition, at just the time of this interview (1965-66), being at least heavily hinted as being the Silmarillion. And if Bilbo was translating "from the Elvish" at Rivendell, then surely he would have got the straight scoop, not old Numenorean legends! (On that note, remember that almost no Numenorean writings survived the Downfall)
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Old 06-15-2020, 08:20 AM   #7
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[Tom] had now wandered into strange regions beyond their memory and beyond their waking thought, into times when the world was wider, and the seas flowed straight to the western Shore; and still back and on Tom went singing into ancient starlight, when only the Elf-sires were awake. [...] "When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already, before the seas were bent. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless -- before the Dark Lord came from Outside."

To my mind, none of that necessarily means Tom told the hobbits that the Sun and Moon were created after the Earth, unless you mentally inject information that Tolkien himself had yet to publish. How many first-time readers would take this to certainly mean that the world was once actually flat, and that the Elves lived on an Earth with no Sun?

A line in The Hobbit however: "In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight before the raising of the Sun and Moon; . . ." was revised by JRRT in the 1960s to: "In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon, but loved best the stars; . . ."


Concerning the rest of your argument, I don't see why the physical presence of Aman is problematic for example, but generally speaking, I would say that garbled traditions allow for certain, externally "older" ideas to remain, rather than be bulldozed. And that's the beauty of it.


Quote:
But the biggest problem would be this- however misguided the early Numenoreans may have been, and we'll pretend that their visitors from Eressea and their own visits to Lindon didn't set them straight, by the time we're into the Third Age the scholars of Arnor would have been in regular contact with Lindon and especially Rivendell, where the Elves knew better. Heck, Glorfindel personally remembered the Trees and had crossed the Grinding Ice! And then we have the problem of Bilbo, whose Translations from the Elvish was, in the Second Edition, at just the time of this interview (1965-66), being at least heavily hinted as being the Silmarillion. And if Bilbo was translating "from the Elvish" at Rivendell, then surely he would have got the straight scoop, not old Numenorean legends!
We've had this discussion before, especially with respect to the Numenorean-Bilbo transmission. In your thread (from 2016, Barrow Downs) "transmission theory: what the heck was Tolkien thinking" you ultimately posted:

http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=19054

Quote:
Actually, I think I'm coming around to the "uncritical translation of old legends" view of Bilbo's work especially in light of T's description of Quenta Silmarillion as a compilation made in Numenor, focused around the Great Tales (all of them about Edain). This is especially appealing in that we know that Bilbo was quite fond of Aragorn and very interested in his lineage. The only (minor) problem there is that "Translations from Numenor" or some such might have been a more accurate title, even though the given one isn't inaccurate (presumably the Numenorean QS was written in Sindarin).

I had something of a small epiphany in this regard brought on by analogies made here to classical mythology. We have all read collections of "Greek" mythology-- except that many of those stories and several of the best known in fact come from Ovid, a Roman; further confusing matters is the fact that often these collections, especially the older ones, use the Latin rather than Greek names of deities (even that reflects Roman "garbling;" with the exception of Apollo, the Roman pantheon were native Latin gods who were subsequently syncretized with the Greek and appropriated their legends).

I thought you were edging closer here to (something like): so what if Glorfindel knew differently. No?


Quote:
(On that note, remember that almost no Numenorean writings survived the Downfall)

At the moment I can't recall, is this in print (as in published by JRRT himself)? In any case, the following is:

Quote:
"These two pieces [poems 6 and 16], therefore, are only re-handlings of Southern matter, though this may have reached Bilbo by way of Rivendell. No. 14 also depends upon the lore of Rivendell, Elvish and Numenorean, concerning the heroic days of the end of the First Age; it seems to contain echoes of the Numenorean tale of Turin and Mim the Dwarf."

JRRT, Adventures of Tom Bombadil

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Old 06-15-2020, 12:02 PM   #8
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Well, as to the survival of Numenorean lore, besides the general statement in Akallabeth that "all their learning" went down under the wave (which of course does allow for whatever Elendil's flotilla might have stowed), there is the comment in the intro to Aldarion and Erendis that it was "the single story (as opposed to records and annals) that survived at all from the long ages of Numenor before the narrative of its end."

(The Akallabeth, naturally, was Exilic; in one place Tolkien says that tradition ascribed its authorship to Elendil himself).

______________
Back in that old discussion, I believe my opinion turned on Bilbo having used Arnorian sources in preference to Elven ones, which required a headcanon assumption: that Elves, as immortals, didn't write "history" in a manner that would make much sense to mortals. As an example, look at Bilbo's own song on Earendil, composed in a mock-Elvish mode: if you didn't already know the story, you wouldn't have any idea what the hell was going on.
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Old 06-15-2020, 02:49 PM   #9
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Well, as to the survival of Numenorean lore, besides the general statement in Akallabeth that "all their learning" went down under the wave (which of course does allow for whatever Elendil's flotilla might have stowed), there is the comment in the intro to Aldarion and Erendis that it was "the single story (as opposed to records and annals) that survived at all from the long ages of Numenor before the narrative of its end."

(The Akallabeth, naturally, was Exilic; in one place Tolkien says that tradition ascribed its authorship to Elendil himself).

But I asked if the notion that almost no Numenorean writings survived the Downfall was in print, as in published by the author . . .

. . . meaning if Tolkien himself didn't publish any of this, then he wasn't bound by it, and thus was free to explain, for example (Vinyar Tengwar 48) how a document about Elvish fingers and numerals was preserved in the archives of Gondor by strange chance from the Elder Days: "( . . . ) but a copy apparently made in Numenor not long before its downfall: probably by or at the orders of Elendil himself, when selecting such records as he could hope to store for the journey to Middle-earth.

Or Tolkien can write a note to The Shibboleth of Feanor (note 17), which reads in part: "As is seen in the Silmarillion. This is not an Eldarin title or work. It is a compilation, probably made in Númenor (...) All however are 'Mannish' works."


One could press this author-published bit from the Prologue: "The beginning of Hobbits lies far back in the Elder Days that are now lost and forgotten. Only the Elves still preserve any records of that time, and their traditions are concerned almost entirely with their own history, in which Men appear seldom and Hobbits are not mentioned at all.")

[as an aside here: I can think of an Elvish tradition that concerns the beginnings of a people "far back" in the Elder Days, in which even Men do not appear: The Awakening of the Quendi, a tradition in which the Sun exists before the Elves awaken.]

A typescript of the Annals of Aman offers the Númenorean transmission as well. Rúmil still makes the Annals, but: "Here begin the 'Annals of Aman'. Rúmil made them in the Elder Days, and they were held in memory by the Exiles. Those parts which we learned and remembered were thus set down in Númenor before the Shadow fell upon it."


Anyway, as already noted, Tolkien himself also published that poem 14 (ATB) depended upon the lore of Rivendell, "Elvish and Numenorean", concerning the heroic days of the end of the First Age; which seems to contain echoes of the Numenorean tale of Turin and Mim the Dwarf.


Quote:
Back in that old discussion, I believe my opinion turned on Bilbo having used Arnorian sources in preference to Elven ones, which required a headcanon assumption: that Elves, as immortals, didn't write "history" in a manner that would make much sense to mortals. As an example, look at Bilbo's own song on Earendil, composed in a mock-Elvish mode: if you didn't already know the story, you wouldn't have any idea what the hell was going on.

That, or we could imagine that Bilbo chose which QS to translate due to length -- if a fully Elvish QS existed in Rivendell in the first place. Or maybe Bilbo preferred one in which Elves awake before the sun, simply due to a fascination with the concept. In any case, I imagine Bilbo's translations include much more than Quenta Silmarillion itself, and contains Elvish traditions along with mixed and Mannish texts (including The Drowning of Anadune for one, in which the Elves teach the Numenoreans that the World is round before the fall).

More late text from JRRT about Elvish lore.


Quote:
"All peace and all strongholds were at last destroyed by Morgoth; but if any wonder how any lore and treasure was preserved from ruin, it may be answered: of the treasure little was preserved, and the loss of things of beauty great and small is incalculable; but the lore of the Eldar did not depend on perishable records, being stored in the vast houses of their minds. When the Eldar made records in written form, even those that to us would seem voluminous, they did only summarise, as it were, for the use of others whose lore was maybe in other fields of knowledge*, matters which were kept for ever undimmed in intricate detail in their minds.'

*Author's footnote

'And as some insurance against their own death. For books were made only in strong places at a time when death in battle was likely to befall any of the Eldar, but it was not yet believed that Morgoth could ever capture or destroy their fortresses."
JRRT, The Shibboleth of Feanor

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Old 06-16-2020, 01:08 PM   #10
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That last, from the Shibboleth, is a powerful argument; perhaps it left an impression in my mind without my consciously remembering it.

It certainly reinforces the idea that works like the QS and the Annals were Numenorean works, either saved by Elendil or recorded from oral tradition in Arnor (an additional headcanon assumption is that Arnor's scholars sent copies of their most important books to Elrond for safekeeping)

But it doesn't get around the problem that, in Numenor and Arnor both, scholars and scribes would have had enough interaction with the High-Elves to know the Truth; flat-world versions can't be explained away like RW creation myths, made up in ignorance by primitives. While possibly the Peoples of Beor, Marach and Haleth might have believed in a flat world on their journey to Beleriand, talking with individuals who had spoken personally to the Valar would have quickly disabused them!
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Old 06-16-2020, 03:18 PM   #11
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Well, to my mind Tolkien doesn't seem to find the matter of -- garbled texts/some measure of Noldorin interaction -- as problematic as you seem to (and others I've chatted with about this).

Quote:
"What we have in the Silmarillion etc. are traditions... handed on by Men in Númenor and later in Middle-earth (Arnor and Gondor); but already far back -- from the first association of the Dúnedain and Elf-friends with the Eldar in Beleriand -- blended and confused with their own Mannish myths and cosmic ideas."
For Tolkien it starts in Beleriand!

And that said, at another point Tolkien muses about adding a note for the Wise of Numenor . . .

Quote:
"The cosmogonic myths are Númenorean, blending Elven-lore with human myth and imagination. A note should say that the Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon. For Sun and stars were all older than Arda. But the placing of Arda amidst stars and under the [?guard] of the Sun was due to Manwe and Varda before the assault of Melkor."

[Christopher Tolkien comments]

"I take the words 'The Wise of Númenor recorded that the making of stars was not so, nor of Sun and Moon' to mean that the making of the Sun, Moon, and Stars was not derived from 'Elven-lore'." Christopher Tolkien, note 2 to Text I, Myths Transformed

And turning to The Drowning of Anadune, Christopher Tolkien again . . .


Quote:
"Where could such ignorance of the Elves be found but in the minds of men of a later time? This I believe, is what my father was concerned to portray: a tradition of Men, through long ages become dim and confused.

"(...) I conclude therefore that the marked differences in the preliminary sketches reflect my father's shifting ideas of what the 'Mannish tradition' might be, and how to present it: he was sketching rapidly possible modes in which the memory, and the forgetfulness, of Men in Middle-earth, descendants of the Exiles of Numenor, might have transformed their earlier history."

Christopher Tolkien, commentary, The Drowning of Anadune, Sauron Defeated

I note too, that in DA Tolkien has the King of Numenor meaning to test what the Western Elves were telling his people -- that the world was round -- instead of simply taking their word for it.

Quote:
"In The Drowning of Anadune the Nimir (Eldar) had come to the Adunaim an expressly taught that the world was of its nature round ('as an apple it hangeth on the branches of heaven', section 23), but Zigur coming had gainsaid it ('The World was not a closed circle', section 31). In this work the author knows that the world is of its nature a globe; but very few of the Adunaim had believed this teaching until the voyages of the survivors of the Downfall taught them it was true."
So very few of the Adunaim had believed this teaching from the Western Elves, and though it appeared to be true after the Downfall, in my opinion, it becomes easy enough to see how even a "mixed" tradition (AK) can seem to say that the World was only "made" round at the Downfall.

And although some of this commentary from the DA section refers to early-ish texts, as I've stated often enough on the web, in my opinion Tolkien "ratified" DA in the 1960s, although admittedly I base this upon a brief remark from Tolkien, and that I think DA fits perfectly into J.R.R.T.'s later characterization of The Silmarillion.
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