Is it Tolkien?

Is it Tolkien?

As a commenter pointed out in one of the Tolkien trivia quizzes, the Boston Globe had a story this past weekend on the impending publication of an unfinished manuscript by J.R.R. Tolkien. As I’ve blogged recently, the author’s son, Christopher, who compiled his father’s work to posthumously publish “The Silmarillion”, “Unfinished Tales”, and the multi-volume “The Histories of Middle Earth” series, has now turned a draft of one of his father’s works into a finished book, “The Children of Hurin”. This has caused some controversy because some are questioning whether it can be considered the work of J.R.R. Tolkien if we don’t know how he would have finished it.

While most Tolkien scholars accept the junior Tolkien’s authority to finish the unpublished texts, he has acknowledged that, in sorting through mountains of hand-written manuscript pages, he at times had to make educated guesses at his father’s intentions.

“It seems Christopher has taken pieces and stitched them together into one narrative,” said Michael Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College who is a Tolkien specialist. “This is a big deal, because the problem with the other [books] is that, while they’re an amazing resource for scholars, they’re fairly unreadable.”

Not everyone is so happy with the attempt, though.

“They said, `It’s not really Tolkien’s words, because you can’t tell what is J.R.R. and what is Christopher.’ ” But, said Drout: “When it comes to Middle-earth, he rightly feels that he knows more than anyone else. I can’t think of anyone but Christopher Tolkien to make that call.”

Since I’m no English professor or literary critic, but just a fan of the work, I’m happy to receive it and read it in any case. Just think of it like we do with artwork by unknown students of famous artists, i.e. “the school of Giotto.” Or the way modernist Biblical scholars view the authorship of the Gospel of John, i.e. the Johannine school. Okay, maybe the latter isn’t a good example.

Still when it comes out I’ll read it and I’ll probably enjoy it. Oh, and movie studios are fighting for the film rights. Oh yeah!

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Domenico Bettinelli

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