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Old Yesterday, 08:52 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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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:

Quote:
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.

hS
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Old Yesterday, 10:12 AM   #2
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This letter is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it demonstrates the breadth of the challenge confronted by CRRT when he rapidly assembled The Silmarillion for publication in 1977. The fall of Doriath has received some attention because it was the element least modified from its early conception of all of the Great Tales. When HoME was published over time, some were critical of CRRT for "rushing" the publication of The Silmarillion opining that it may have resulted in JRRT's "final" or "latest" conceptions being omitted. Clearly, CRRT did not have access to this letter (or overlooked it) when preparing The Silmarillion for publication. But if the letter was available, I question whether it would have changed his approach to the fall of Doriath.

CRRT was often faced with differing versions of his father's work. The difficulties he encountered included determining which versions were the latest in time, which were experimental, and which (if any) were final. CRRT admitted this difficulty after the fact. However, it is also clear that JRRT "thought about" revisions to his work with pencil in hand. Witness NoME and the multiple iterations of his musings on time and the aging of the Eldar. Consider his experimentation with a "round world" conception of Arda. I would speculate that CRRT was at least aware of the latter even in 1977, but chose not to attempt to modify his father's stories. To do so would have required both speculation, as well as wholesale drafting, not mere revision, of portions of JRRT's mythos.

A further comment. JRRT was what we Americans would call a "pack rat." He apparently retained a significant portion of his writings, notes and doodles over his lifetime. However, his papers were not well organized. When he was actively drafting, it seems that he sometimes had earlier drafts on hand. But when he was writing down his musings, thoughts and ideas, or writing a letter, he often did not have his drafts available and worked from memory. As a result, details changed. Here, perhaps the discussions of the timing of Thingol's death, when the Dwarves were passing through Doriath's borders, Hurin's attitude towards Thingol and what happened to his band of bandits (for lack of a better term) were not necessarily a "final conception" but rather his best recollection of what he had written before (maybe combined with some real time revision).
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Old Yesterday, 10:26 AM   #3
William Cloud Hicklin
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Yes, I think that is correct on all fronts. Certainly I have run into some JRRT notes written out of his head, which differ wildly from everything else he wrote on the same topic!

CT was indeed aware of the "round-world" conversion which his father had conceived, but it was for him dispositive (and I think rightly) that none of it had attained narrative form. He regarded his role as editing (or "selecting and arranging") what his father had actually written, not what he may have intended to write but never got around to.

That of course left the fall of Doriath in an anomalous place, since the most recent account of it was wholly inconsistent with later material and something had to be done. I don't think that the solution CT and Guy Kay came up with was a bad one at all- although evidently CT felt guilty about it.
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Old Yesterday, 02:28 PM   #4
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Thanks for pointing us toward the text: it's fascinating to me how Tolkien's late retelling of one of his most curiosity-provoking tales still reads to my own faulty memory as strikingly similar to the Lost Tales version while being completely set in the much later Silm. The character of Thingol, in particular, seems much meaner and "fallen" here than in CT's retelling (where Thingol still bears fault, but the emphasis is laid on his lordliness). This version, however, is a bit more "Tinwëlint" and goes to show, at the very least, the potency of dragon-curse on the treasure.
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Old Today, 01:06 AM   #5
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I agree fully to Formemdacil, that the most fascinating aspect of the text is how Tolkien is able even in such a short summary to draw a clear picture of the potentcy of the dragon sikness and / or the curse of Mîm. First we Thingol dealing with Húrin more lordly then in anyother version, but when he is in possesion of the hoard, the dragon-curse imidiatly works drastically on him as shown when dealing with the outlaws and even more drastically when dealing with the dwarves.

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Old Today, 08:06 AM   #6
Huinesoron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Clearly, CRRT did not have access to this letter (or overlooked it) when preparing The Silmarillion for publication.
My understanding is that the only copy of the letter is the one that was sent - it looks like it wasn't even known to exist until 1984, when it was first put up for auction. Christopher may well never have read it!

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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
I don't think that the solution CT and Guy Kay came up with was a bad one at all- although evidently CT felt guilty about it.
Absolutely, especially since Christopher didn't have access to this letter. Something needed to be done about the breach in the Girdle, and JRRT had left no indication of what. I do think he would probably have adopted the letter's version if he had had access to it, though: the "we don't know" concept fits very nicely in my view.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Here, perhaps the discussions of the timing of Thingol's death, when the Dwarves were passing through Doriath's borders, Hurin's attitude towards Thingol and what happened to his band of bandits (for lack of a better term) were not necessarily a "final conception" but rather his best recollection of what he had written before (maybe combined with some real time revision).
This is definitely a good point, and links to Form and Findegil's comments about the differences in Thingol. Comparing the three stories, I think JRRT was actually largely ignoring the 1930 Silmarillion in this 1960s note: there are a bunch of new ideas in the Quenta which go completely unmentioned:
  • The 'folk of Mim' appear to be occupying Nargothrond, and are killed in the battle.
  • The idea of Hurin's outlaws dying along the road, and Hurin sending to Thingol for help carrying the treasure.
  • The first battle with the dwarves in Menegroth, where many of them are slain. In the Quenta this was the origin of the Mound of Avarice, which in BoLT was raised over the slain outlaws.
  • Melian leaving Doriath to seek aid from Beren and Luthien. In BoLT this was actually Huan's role, while The Hoard attributes it to elves fleeing the battle.

There don't appear to be any specifically Quenta elements which carry across to The Hoard, though there are things from BoLT which are dropped in all later versions (notably the elvish traitor who brings the dwarves to Thingol). It's possible Tolkien didn't have the Quenya with him when writing it, but was going on his memory of it, coloured by BoLT. But there are also a lot of new elements that exist only in "Concerning The Hoard":
  • Thingol locks the treasure in a deep chamber.
  • The whole concept of dwarvish honesty. In BoLT, the dwarves demand massive rewards after the fact, and Thingol punishes them for it. In the Quenta, they try to take all the treasure and there is a battle. In The Hoard, they were promised a specific amount, never demanded more than that, and (other than the Silmaril) took only that much after their victory.
  • The Nauglamir being made of silver. In BoLT it was made of gold.
  • Thingol's specific desire for silver thrones. BoLT has the dwarves make him whatever they want; the Quenta doesn't specify.
  • The weakening/opening of the Girdle to allow the dwarves inside. Previously they were led in by traitor elves.
  • The apparent death of Thingol in Menegroth itself. Both previous versions have him out hunting, and the sack of Menegroth after his death; The Hoard says "his halls were violated and he himself slain".

I don't think we can write all that off as mis-remembering or off-the-cuff elaborations. The 'dwarvish honesty' was clearly constructed to reconcile the older stories with The Hobbit, and Tolkien goes into a lot of detail over it. The silver thrones, too, are a highly specific element which can't have just come out of nowhere. The whole focus on silver (rather than the gold which is the emphasis in BoLT) also sounds like a reaction to The Hobbit, where it is said of Thranduil that "If the elf-king had
a weakness it was for treasure, especially for silver and white gems". I think either Tolkien had a copy of The Hobbit in front of him when he wrote the letter - or the mention of silver in The Hobbit indicates that he had already decided when he wrote it that Thingol had a thing for silver, and thus his spiritual successor had as well. In either case, it looks like a lot of thought went into "Concerning... 'The Hoard'".

Does Thingol, in the 1964 version of his last acts, come across as noble? Not particularly! But he's not worse than Turgon, who still spends the published Silm sulking in his tower while Morgoth's armies burn it down; and he's definitely doing better than Hurin, who seems to get more destructive each time Tolkien comes back to him.

Thingol's death was a confluence of every curse at play in Beleriand at the time: lust for the Silmaril, dragon-gold, a dwarvish curse, and Morgoth's power over Hurin and his children. I don't think it's out of line with the later Silmarillion for all of that to send him into the state shown in "Concerning... 'The Hoard'", even to the point that Melian herself might be moved to reject him and withdraw her protection.

(Not that Mr. 'I won't kill you, now go invade Angband while I lock my daughter in a tree' was the most noble elf around to start with...!)

hS
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Old Today, 09:10 AM   #7
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This is extraordinary. Things are finally coming to light. And this was capital, in my opinion.
But there is something that makes me doubt about the date of the manuscript, and it is the mention it makes of The Sons of the Valar for the Last Battle, in 1964????
It is assumed that circa 1958-60 the idea of the Children of the Valar was abandoned, if I am not mistaken.
There is a first mention of The Hoard in 1961 in a letter to Pauline Baynes.

Could it be that this manuscript is assumed erroneously to be from 1964, as it is attached to the letter, although Tolkien expressly says in it that he attached the said "screed" that "I wrote in answer to your remarks about the poem called The Hoard"?

What do you think?

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Old Today, 01:05 PM   #8
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I would fear to put all my stock in "the Sons of the Valar" as a definitive piece of evidence by itself, since it's easy enough to imagine "the Sons of the Valar" as a poetic description of the Host of the Valar rather than a definitive statement of paternity--but, that said, if it turned out that this had, in fact, been sent at an earlier date, that would line up. But the fact that this accompanies a dated letter--it is not dated itself--does seem the heaviest bit of evidence to my mind. Perhaps a Tolkien handwriting expert could weigh in? I am sure there are a few of those by now.
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