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Old 10-12-2022, 09:40 AM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,203
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
600,000?

No, not posts on these forums.

I recently reread Letters by Tolkien and two letters caught my attention. I noticed them before long ago, and this issue may have been discussed here in the past, but I could not find any thread on point.

To place these letters in context, in late 1937, The Hobbit had been recognized by Unwin as being moderately successful and Tolkien was essentially asked "do you have any more?" He provided Unwin with early drafts of the Silmarillion, the Beren and Luthien poem, Ainulindale, Ambarkenta and Fall of Numenor, among other things. The short version of the story, which I may explore in another thread, is that Tolkien believed that Unwin rejected the "Gnomish stories" and decided to undertake a sequel to The Hobbit. He spent somewhat more than the next ten years on writing LoTR. By 1949, Tolkien had provided drafts of portions of LoTR to Unwin which were well received, but Unwin had not committed to publishing it. LoTR was obviously a huge work and Tolkien wanted it published in a single volume, which was probably not economically feasible. Notably, there was no contract with Unwin regarding LoTR at this point. Then something odd happened.

Tolkien met with Milton Waldman, at Collins publishing, who expressed an interest in both LoTR and the Silmarillion (which had not been worked on significantly since JRRT began LoTR) if the latter was finished. On March 10, 1950, Tolkien wrote to Stanley Unwin and, on that same day prepared a draft letter to Waldman (it is not clear that the latter was actually sent) with both letters proposing the publication of both LoTR and the Silmarillion which Tolkien described as "each" being about 600,000 words in length. He later sent a lengthy letter to Waldman, after Unwin balked at the idea of publishing both, describing the Silmarillion materials in a fairly detailed outline.

Now we get to the point. 600,000 words each! Now, first of all, Tolkien seriously overestimated the length of LoTR which is reported at just under 300,000 words (likely including the appendices). But even assuming that Tolkien believed that a "for publication" version of the Silmarillion would be of length equal to LoTR, what was he talking about (or envisaging)? The published version of The Silmarillion, excluding Of the Rings of Power, was 282 pages or approximately 80,000 words, more or less. None of his other drafts realistically exceeded this length. Yet JRRT apparently expected the "final" version of The Silmarillion and its related works to be more than three times this length.

Your thoughts?
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