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Old 08-08-2022, 08:52 AM   #1
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Huinesoron is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Huinesoron is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril "Concerning... 'The Hoard'" revealed

Since the '80s, it has been known that Tolkien wrote a long letter in 1964 linking his poem 'The Hoard' (in Adventures of Tom Bombadil) to the legends of the First Age. Excerpts have been printed in a few places, and Hammond & Scull occasionally discuss it in various texts. One of the key things we knew about it is that it contains a late retelling of the death of Thingol, which is notorious as the piece of the Silmarillion that Christopher Tolkien basically had to invent.

Thanks to a brilliant find by Arvegil145 over in the New Silmarillion subforum, we finally get to see the full text of the letter! I've saved off a copy of the transcription (I don't want the version Arvegil linked to to suddenly vanish!), and the key passage runs as follows:

The Dwarves sent emissaries, and they gazed on the treasure in amazement. After bargaining they agreed to send their best smiths to work at Thingol’s orders but at the price of one tithe of the unwrought metals. The smiths came and laboured long, and among other marvellous works they made the renowned “Necklace of the Dwarves”, of silver, upon which was set in the middle the peerless Silmaril that Beren and Lúthien had won from the Iron Crown of the Dark Lord. But as their work progressed Thingol began to regret the bargain, and in particular he saw that if the tithe was paid in full, not enough would remain for the making of a thing upon which he had now set his spell-distraught heart, and a double throne of silver and gems for himself and Melian the Queen. When the Dwarves had ended their work he [[† demurred?]], offering less than the tithe; or demanding at least that the throne should be made and other treasure given in stead of the silver required.

The Dwarves were angered, all the more because they had themselves come under the dragon-spell. They rejected Thingol’s terms, and refused anything less than the full tithe of treasure of Nargothrond. Unpaid they departed in wrath.
Back in their mountains’ strongholds they plotted revenge, and not long after they came down with a great force and invaded Doriath. This had before been impossible, because of the Girdle of Melian, an invisible fence maintained by the power and will through which no one with evil intent could pass. But either this fence had been robbed of its power by the evil within, or Melian had removed it in grief and horror at the deed that had been done. The dwarf-host entered Doriath and most of Thingol’s warriors perished. His halls were violated and he himself slain.
I find this evolution of the tale really fascinating. The question has always been how the dwarves could pass through the Girdle of Melian to kill Thingol. In the Book of Lost Tales version, the killers were led through by a traitor. In the published Silmarillion, they just up and kill Thingol while still inside. In the 1930 Quenta Noldorinwa, there's no explanation for their entrance: they just get in.

Here in 1964, Tolkien finds a completely new place to lay the blame: it's Thingol's fault! The "evil within... the deed that had been done" is Thingol's breach of his contract with the dwarves, and it is this betrayal that causes the withdrawal of divine protection from Doriath. This is far and away the most pro-dwarvish version of the Ruin of Doriath, with specific discussions of how they (mostly) remained honest even in their attack.

Even more fascinating is that Melian might have done it deliberately, allowing her husband to be killed. Given her recorded live for Thingol, I can't quite see this, and I wonder why Tolkien mentioned it. Could it be intended as in-universe uncertainty - ie, Melian never told anyone what exactly happened, and so the elves are as much in the dark as we are? It genuinely seems like the most likely option.

Also discussed, a couple of paragraphs earlier, is the fate of Hurin's outlaws. The Silmarillion makes no mention of these ruffians, instead having Hurin just bring one necklace from Nargothrond. The 1930 Quenta has a weird situation where the outlaws take the gold from Nargothrond, then kill each other, and so Hurin has to ask for aid from Thingol to carry it all, and then "[bids the bearers] cast it all at the feet of Thingol", which I can only imagine caused some bewilderment among the elves who had brought it. "Concerning... 'The Hoard'" takes the far more logical route of bringing the outlaws all the way to Menegroth, and then having them try to steal the treasure and be cut down by Thingol's guards.

To the best of my understanding, "Concerning... 'The Hoard'" postdates the Grey Annals and the Quenta Silmarillion (and the Wanderings of Hurin, which come close to meeting it in the middle) by over a decade; it postdates the previous version of the Nauglamir/Ruin of Doriath by over three. It is a uniquely isolated fragment of one of the Great Tales, and proof that even when he didn't write anything down, Tolkien was still thinking about the story, solving the problems, and preparing for that increasingly unlikely Final Silmarillion.

Have you burned the ships that could bear you back again? ~Finrod: The Rock Opera
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