3 or 4 novels instead of 1 Silmarillion [Morgoth's Ring]

Bruce N H

Hi all,

I was re-listening to class 2 of Morgoth's Ring from last week, where Corey was talking about the style of the Silmarillion vs the style of Lord of the Rings, and this got me thinking. What if Tolkien had not written the whole sweeping history in the Silmarillion, but had instead written three novels - the stories of Beren and Luthien, of Turin, and of Tuor? What would we know of the whole story of the Silmarillion? What stories would have to be dropped? For the purposes of this thought experiment, let's assume that each of the three books could have one big exposition-dump chapter (like the Council of Elrond), and a couple of extended poems (like Earendil was a Mariner) to help fill in backstory. But to make things a little harder, no appendices, and no ability to comb through Tolkien's notes and drafts to find out things that didn't make it into the text. What would we know? What would we not know?

First, one big picture thought, these could all be framed as man-stories, not elf-stories. How would that shape the form of the stories and our understanding?

Beren and Luthien - The story could start with a song about the Dagor Bragollach and Fingolfin's duel with Morgoth, being sung by the remaining men in Dorthonian. This would also give occasion for Barahir to speak about Finrod as he gives Beren his ring. Later in Doriath there will have to be some reference to the Two Trees and their destruction, and how their light can be seen in Melian's face, and in the beauty of Luthien. But now that light can only be truly found in the Silmarils - insert exposition here about their creation, the Oath of Feanor, and the kinslaying. Later as Beren and Luthien are traveling we would get some discussion of the state of Beleriand post-Dagor Bragollach, and we'll meet up with Finrod and find out about the state of Nargothrond. Much later, some discussion of the Halls of Mandos and the different fates of elves and men will have to be included. Epilogue material will include the destruction of Doriath and the escape of Elwing.

Turin - this would start with Hurin and Huor preparing to go to war in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. There would be some discussion of the state of things in Beleriand since the Dagor Bragollach, and the new hope people had since the quest of Beren and Luthien. They would also be speculating about whether Turgon would join the battle (insert flashback to Hurin and Huor in Gondolin). A little bit more about Gondolin would come up when Hurin and Huor cover Turgon's retreat, but most of this would be in the Tuor book. At some point in this story we could get a poem about the Music of the Ainur (maybe when Turin is in Doriath), which would give occasion to talk about fate, and how that relates to men and to elves. The backstory of Nargothrond could come up when Turin is there. Maybe also some backstory about the creation of dragons.

Tuor - this would also start with Hurin and Huor, but told from Huor's point of view. This story will need more backstory about the Noldor, with maybe Turgon telling Tuor about the revolt of the Noldor, the Doom of Mandos, the treachery of Feanor, and the crossing of the Helcaraxe. He'll also have to tell about Ulmo and the founding of Gondolin - maybe also with some reference to the founding of Nargothrond. This story would end after the third kinslaying, with Elwing and Earendil sailing west.

*Hmm, thinking further I think we would need a fourth book the Akallabeth. This could start with a brief recap of the War of Wrath and the fates of Elrond and Elros as backstory to the founding of Numenor, maybe as a story told by Elendil to his two young sons. It could also fill in a little about what's happening in Middle Earth during the Second age.

What crucial events and characters would be missing? Of Beleriand and its Realms! More seriously, the arrangements of the kingdoms would be more confusing, especially the way things were arranged during the Siege of Angband, since these stories are all set largely after the Dagor Bragollach. Pretty much anything before the rising of the sun would be gone except for a couple of references. This includes most of the detail about the Valar, the Two Lamps, early wars with Morgoth, details about Valinor, about the awakening of the elves and their journey west, which would mean the different divisions of the elves would never be clearly laid out (there would have to be some distinctions made between the Noldor and the Sindar, but maybe along the lines we get in Lord of the Rings). Dwarves would be a big mystery, since we wouldn't get their creation. We would have Mim, and the dwarves that kill Thingol. So dwarves would end up looking pretty bad overall. IMO the biggest loss would be more about Fingolfin, especially his rescue of Maedhros. Also the story of Nargothrond would be a little confusing, as it and/or Finrod come up a little bit in all three stories, but we never get a straightforward start-to-finish story. Otherwise, all of the major events at least from the Dagor Bragollach forward would be there.

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Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Were it not for Christopher Tolkien, we might have all these novels by now, ghostwritten and godawful (all the post-Asimov "Foundation" novels come to mind). I love the idea of JRRT writing them, but frankly it was never in the cards.