The Treason of Saruman

Summary and discussion; new information revealed, contribution of Christopher Tolkien (1000 words)

Intro; explanation of title as original title of Book III. Note this is not the drafts for Two Towers. Note Bratman concept of subseries of HoLR.

Brief breakdown of sections of Treason. Note it is directly continuous from Shadow. C. Tolkien said he could not make it divide evenly between the three LotR volumes.

Order of chapters is a combination of chronological and order of final chapters in LotR.

Commentary and samples of text showing the composition of LotR

Original, almost separate bits: Errantry poem, Maps section.

Critics say HoLR to be used to study composition and creation of LotR. Some disagree, Rosebury, Shippey?

Scholarship: first is C. Tolkien himself. Few critics seem to notice how much of HoME is written in his own words, both summaries and commentaries. This is a critical edition, not an original text. He omits much as being less interesting. Drout says he pays little attention to the development of style. Second, very few large-scale considerations of LotR composition, Bratman and Lewis and Currie the only real ones.

Several scholars have begun using drafts in HoME to explicate smaller questions in Tolkien studies. Examples using Treason: Flieger shows how Tolkien struggled to make things less clear, more ambiguous.


What's in the History of Middle-earth?

A detailed list of the contents of the 12 HoMe-volumes and Unfinished Tales

By Ninni M. Pettersson - 7/5/05


The Return of the Shadow

The First Phase . . Es./d

The beginning of 'The Lord of the Rings'. Starts with 'A Long-expected Party' and ends 'At Rivendell'.
Poems included are 'The Road goes ever on', 'Upon the hearth', 'Snow-white', 'Ho! Ho! Ho!', 'O Water warm', 'The Root of the Boot', 'The Cat and the Fiddle' and 'The leaves were long'.
Some sketch-maps of the Road between Weathertop and Rivendell are also included.
Written: Dec 1937 - early autumn 1938

The Second Phase

Rewriting from 'A Long-expected Party' to 'Tom Bombadil'.
Poems included are ' The Road goes ever on', 'The Ring Verses' and 'Farewell! farewell'.
Written: Autumn 1938

The Third Phase

First appearance of 'Concering Hobbits', then goes on from 'A Long-expected Party' to the feast in Rivendell. Bingo has finally become Frodo.
'New Uncertainties and New Projections' cointains proposed plot-outlines, questions and diverse text-fragments.
A plan of Bree is also included.
Written: Winter 1938/39 and autumn 1939

The Story Continued

Starts 'In the House of Elrond' and goes on to 'The Mines of Moria'.
The earliest map of the lands to the south is also included.
Written: Late 1939


The Treason of Isengard

The Treason of Isengard

Starts with the extensive rewriting of Book I, then goes on with Book II and III as far as ' The King of the Golden Hall'.
Poems included are 'All that is gold', 'A troll sat alone', 'Errantry' and 'Eärendillinwë' (in different versions), 'The world was young', 'Nimlothel', 'Namarië' in Elvish, 'The Song of the Ent and the Entwife' and 'Elfstone, Elfstone'.
Also includes 'The first map' in different versions, a sketch of the Gate of Minas Morgul, the earliest drawing of the inscription and signs on the West Gate of Moria and a sketch-plan of the camping-place beneath Amon Hen.
Written: Late 1939 - 1942

Appendix on Runes

Includes 'The Elvish Alphabets', 'The Alphabet of Dairon' and five plates with 'Runes of Beleriand', 'Dwarf-runes for writing English' and the earliest inscriptions on Balin's tomb and 'The Book of Moria'.
Written: The later 1930s


The War of the Ring

The Fall of Saruman

Includes the last chapters of Book III from 'Helm's Deep' to 'The Palantír'.
Written: 1942

The Ring Goes East

Frodo's and Sam's journey (Book IV) from 'The Taming of Smeagol' to 'Kirith Ungol'.
Includes a map of Frodo's journey to the Morannon, a map of Minas Morghul and the Cross-roads, several sketches of Kirith Ungol and a plan of Shelob's Lair.
Written: 1944

Minas Tirith

The whole of Book V from 'Minas Tirith' to 'The Black Gate Opens'.
Poems included are 'The days are numbered', 'When the land is dark' and 'We heard in the hills' Sketches of Dunharrow, Minas Tirith, Starkhorn, Dwimorberg and Irensaga and maps of Harrowdale, the White Mountains and South Gondor, Minas Tirith and Mindolluin and 'The Second Map' are also included.
Written: Late 1944 - 1946


Sauron Defeated

The End of the Third Age

From 'The Tower of Kirith Ungol' to 'The Grey Havens'.
Included are the non-published Epilogue in different versions together with 'The King's Letter' in Elvish and written in Tengwar.
Poem included is 'I sit upon the stones'.
Sketches of the Tower of Kirith Ungol, Mt Doom, Orthanc and Dunharrow are included.
Written: Late 1946 - 1948

The Notion Club Papers

The beginning of another "time-travel story" that was never finished.
Poems included are some "Ælfwine-poems" (some in Old English) and 'The Death of St Brendan' and 'Imram'.
Includes a discussion of "Avallonian" and "Adunaic", together with text-fragments in these languages and also some texts in Old English.
'Lowdham's manuscript' in Tengwar (with notes) is also included.
Written: Late 1945 - 1946

The Drowning of Anadûnê

Includes the third version of 'The Fall of Númenor', 'The Drowning of Anadûnê' in different versions and several early texts concerning Men and the fate of Númenor.
'Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language' is also included.
Written: c. 1945 – 1946



The Treason of Isengard – Outline by Chapters

  1. Gandalf’s Delay
  2. Date: Roughly end of 1939, possibly as early as August.

    This chapter presents six "outlines, time schemes, and notes" collected together.

      1. State of Plot assumed after XI. (Much of explanation in XII and of incident in Bree chapter will have to be rewritten.

      This is Tolkien’s notes. XII refers to Council of Elrond. The plot is advanced to the point that Bilbo goes away, leaving the Ring with Frodo. Gandalf goes away, returns, tells Frodo about The Ring, leaves again. Gandalf does not return for over a year, Frodo decides to leave by himself, with friends, just as the Black Riders arrive at Hobbiton. Gandalf cannot help, being detained by the Dark Lord’s emissaries, or by Treebeard the giant.

      Tolkien briefly considers having Trotter be a disguised Elf.

      2. In another undated scrap is seen the actual emergence of ‘Trotter’s’ true name – as a Man: Aragorn.

      Tolkien works out the consequences of Trotter being a man, one of the ancient Men of the North: for instance, no wooden shoes! No Odo hobbit being taken along by Gandalf during his chase to catch up with Frodo, as Gandalf is being held prisoner elsewhere.

      Tolkien here briefly considered having Trotter be Peregrin Boffin, a runaway hobbit who followed Bilbo.

      3. Final Decisions, Oct. 8, 1939.

      Outline of the plot as it stood. Much the same as above. Gandalf has disappeared, Frodo sets out on his own. Trotter is a ranger, descendant of Elendil, a ‘Tarkil’, i.e., Mortal Man.

      4. New Plot. Autumn 1939.

      Elaboration of Gandalf’s disappearance: He is held a prisoner in the ‘Western Tower’ by five Black Riders. He escapes when the Riders leave to pursue Frodo, and Gandalf is behind Frodo and Trotter the whole time.

      First appearance ("April 1418") of any ‘exterior chronology’ to the story.

      5. A series of notes on unconnected topics on the back of (4.) above.

      Bill Ferny’s pony stays in Bree; Trotter’s real name is Aragorn; Elrond should tell more of Gil-galad. New name for Dimrilldate, River of Gondor, Entishlands, home of trolls, north of Rivendell; Butterbur does not know Bombadil, because he never leaves his home; More Trotter back story as Man; Frodo’s red sword broken, so he gets Sting.

      6. Time-schemes

      Comparison of four different versions of Gandalf’s delay. A matches the New Plot, above; and D, the last, matches the final LotR version.

      7. NOTES

        See notes 8, 16

  3. The Fourth Phase (1): From Hobbiton to Bree
  4. Date: Fall 1939

    The "Fourth Phase", and final manuscript phase, of development of Book 1 of LotR achieved the near-final text of Fellowship of the Ring. New passages and alterations were written over the fair copies of the "Third Phase" (as presented in Shadow), then rewritten as new fair copies. Parts of "Third Phase" that were kept intact were incorporated into the "Fourth Phase".

      8. Chapter I: ‘A Long-expected Party’

      Changes nearly achieve the final text. Exceptions: Bilbo does not lose his temper at Gandalf over the Ring; Gandalf holds the Ring to give to Frodo; Frodo does not mention Bilbo’s "other" story of how he got the Ring from Gollum.

      9. Chapter II: ‘Ancient History’

      Substantial rewriting in some places, none in others; but still different from the final. Gandalf does not mention any other Rings; no mention of Saruman, but suggestion of other wizards who go in for Ring-lore; the beginning of the story of Gollum and the higher power that brought Bilbo to find the Ring; Deagol finds the Ring in a mudbank, not in the River; the invention of the "birthday" back-story to explain away the more innocent "Hobbit" storyline. Subsequent additions are tied into the writing of the Council of Elrond and will be covered later.

      10. Chapter III: ‘Three is Company’

      Gandalf’s advice to Frodo to get moving precedes the Pub talk; the character of Peregrin (Pippin) is settled on.

      11. Chapter IV: ‘A Shortcut to Mushrooms’

      No changes, final text achieved in "Third Phase".

      12. Chapter V: ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’ (with ‘The Dream of the Tower’)

      Rewriting almost reaches the final text of FotR. The text of the "Dream of the Tower" is given, that Frodo had, originally in the Woody End, then at Crickhollow, finally at Bree, after Gandalf had already escaped. The dream shows Gandalf trapped in one of the Elven Towers west of the Shire, surrounded by Black Riders. This was later simplified to the dream at Crickhollow of Towers by the Sea; and the dream of Gandalf escaping from Orthanc was had at Bombadil’s house.

      13. Chapter VI: ‘The Old Forest’

      Changes here possibly all belong to the "Third Phase": see Shadow for the changes to their descent into the Withywindle valley, and for the roles of Merry and Frodo being switched in the Willow episode.

      14. Chapter VII: ‘In the House of Tom Bombadil’

      No changes from "Third Phase", except that the Riders’ attack on Crickhollow was removed since it now took place when the Hobbits had reached Bree. The dream of Gandalf at Orthanc was not yet in place.

      15. Chapter VIII: ‘Fog on the Barrow-downs’

        No changes from "Third Phase", except at ending, where all reference to Tom knowing Butterbur are removed. Bits about Carn Dûm and Angmar were added subsequently.

  5. The Fourth Phase (2): From Bree to the Ford of Rivendell
  6. Date: Fall 1939

    "Fourth Phase" manuscript revisions to Book 1, continued.

      16. Chapter IX: ‘At the Sign of the Prancing Pony (i) The Cow Jumped Over the Moon’

      Date: October 1939. The "Fourth Phase" manuscript for these two chapters (originally one) was made from the "blue version" of the "new plot" for the Bree sequence in Shadow. It is settled that Gandalf and Odo had not already passed through Bree.

      The text is close to the final. Exceptions: the interview between the Black Riders and Harry at the gate is still in and was struck out later; Trotter, though a Man, still has hobbity physical characteristics; Harry has more of a presence in the scenes in the common-room.

      17. Chapter X: ‘At the Sign of the Prancing Pony (ii) All that is gold does not glitter’

      The chapter later renamed ‘Strider’. Follows "blue version" (from Shadow), but now Butterbur does not enter and interrupt Trotter, who continues to warn and inform Frodo of his danger. Only then does Butterbur appear with the letter after guessing Frodo’s identity; the letter is from early September and is being held upon Frodo’s arrival at Bree. After reading Gandalf’s warning, Frodo asks Trotter for proof of identity, and the ranger produces his own letter from Gandalf affirming he is Aragorn, of the line of Elendil. The gold does not glitter verse is the verifying clue that he is the Trotter in Gandalf’s letter, which Sam tries to dispute.

      This text is not yet final; more development is covered in IV. below.

      18. Chapter XI: ‘A Knife in the Dark’

      This is partly the existing "Third Phase" and partly new sections.

      The attack on Crickhollow is in this chapter now, and the draft of this is shown. Gandalf appears on a white horse, with

      i. Hamilcar (Fredegar) clinging behind him, to chase the Riders away from the house.

      ii. An alternate has Ham alone, blowing the horn of alarm.

      iii. Finally there is the version where the Riders abduct Ham from the house, thinking they have Frodo, and flee, chased by Gandalf.

      In Bree, Frodo dreams of the hoofbeats and the horn-blowing.

      New writing covers the morning and their departure from Bree. The "Third Phase" text survives almost unchanged to their arrival at Weathertop, except for the lights in the eastern sky, the evidence of fire on Weathertop, and the remains of the tower of Amon Sul and Strider’s account of its history. Sam’s song of Gil-galad was written and added at this point. Trotter finds the stone from Gandalf, and finds both boot-tracks and hobbit-traces in the mud at the foot of the hill, implying the Riders had captured a hobbit. Trotter’s tales by the fireside are close to final, and the song of Beren and Luthien also reaches its final form, although it has not been copied into the manuscript.

      19. Chapter XII: ‘Flight to the Ford’

      Mostly existing "Third Phase" text with occasional new pages inserted: The Hoarwell and Bruinen are named; the Entish Lands are north of the Road; Angmar and the North Kingdom are not mentioned. Three versions of the Troll Song were tried: the first, originally meant for Frodo at Bree, is reprinted, as it shows the earliest changes from the 1920s original given in Shadow. Glorfindel finds them with the news that Gandalf has arrived at Rivendell, but that is soon changed to Gandalf still missing. The number of Riders at the Ford is adjusted to cohere with the attack on Weathertop.

      20. NOTES

        Note 13 has prelimary drafts of Gandalf’s letter to Frodo; 17, Trotter’s speech to Frodo on Trust for its own sake; 25, Sam’s chatter after reciting the Gilgalad lay. Also 32 on the Ettenmoors/Entish Lands; and 36 on the Baraduin name.

  7. Of Hamilcar, Gandalf and Saruman
  8. Date: August 1940

    Introduces Tolkien’s use of dated examination paper to confirm that Aug 1939-Aug 1940 (not 1940-41) was the time of the one-year pause after he had reached Balin’s tomb, which he mentions in his 2nd edition Foreword.

      21. "Fourth Phase" continues.

      One year later than material in Chaps I-III, above: Rewritten passage of ‘Many Meetings’, establishing that Gandalf had rescued Ham from the Riders and brought him to Rivendell, where Frodo finally hears the story.

      22. New Plot. Aug 26-27, 1940.

      A Narrative Outline. This is the point where Tolkien conceived the character of the treasonous wizard Saruman as the agent that held Gandalf captive, or detained him from escorting Frodo from Hobbiton.

      [I am not clear whether this ‘New Plot’ dated Aug 1940 is the same ‘New Plot’ from Aug 1939 in I.4 above. Both involve Gandalf being held captive, one in the Western Tower by Black Riders, one by Saruman or Treebeard in the South. – JM 9/17/05]

      Also has a complex working out of the movements of all nine Black Riders, identified as A through I.

      Added later to this manuscript: the idea of Butterbur forgetting to send Gandalf’s letter to Frodo, which explains why Gandalf or Trotter never told Frodo to leave as soon as the Black Riders were reported to be abroad.

      The consequences of this ‘New Plot’ were worked out with the following revisions to "Fourth Phase" material:

      i. A narrative passage establishing that Harry the gatekeeper sees the Black Riders turning South outside Bree, to take Ham to the Captain.

      ii. Elimination of the capture of Ham, as the Riders "would obviously kill him." Return to "Second Phase" Crickhollow version, where Gandalf alone surprises and chases the Riders away.

      iii. Rewrite of the "Strider" Chapter (see IV.2, above) to incorporate the "forgotten letter" idea. Final form of this chapter is reached. Eliminates second letter that Trotter carries, Frodo reads the Butterbur letter silently, Trotter quotes "Glitter" verse unprompted to show he is Aragorn, displays the Broken Sword.

      23. NOTES

        Note 18 has a variation on the "Glitter" verse.

  9. Bilbo’s Song at Rivendell: Errantry and Eärendillinwë
  10. Date: Fall 1939 to Fall 1940

    The ‘Many Meetings/Council of Elrond’ chapter XII (now XIII since Bree became 2 chapters) was only completed to the Gloin-Frodo dinner conversation in the "First" and "Third Phase" texts in Shadow. That is part I in this discussion.

      24. Changes made to part I in the "Fourth Phase"

      Gandalf tells Frodo that Trotter/Aragorn as a Ranger is of the "race of the Kings from over the Sea". Frodo indicates he has heard of Númenor.

      25. "Fourth Phase" manuscript of Part II.

      New writing, mostly not quoted, as very close to the final text of ‘Many Meetings’. Bilbo’s account of his travels to Dale is added, also his request of Frodo to see the Ring. Further additions informing us that Aragorn is Númenorean.

      No change to the chant to Elbereth, and no mention of Aragorn courting Arwen.

      26. The textual history of the Errantry/Earendil poem.

      A very involved and original piece of scholarship by C. Tolkien, showing the connection between the two poems, and discovering the "true" version that was meant to go into The Lord of the Rings but accidentally did not.

      27. NOTES

        Note 10: An early draft from 1933 of a bit of the dramatic dialogue that eventually became The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son (1953).

  11. The Council of Elrond (1)
    1. 28. The Second Version

      Here are excerpts from the mostly unchanged ‘fair copy’ of the text presented in Shadow. Some of the more significant changes: incorporation of Elrond’s memory of the First Age into his account of the Last Battle; Gandalf’s attitude toward Bombadil; Power of the Elven rings described, though still made by Sauron; Gandalf’s comments on composition of the Company, now that Trotter is a Man; first account of the selection of the Company by Elrond; gift of Sting and the elf-mail to Frodo from Bilbo;

      29. Outline of the Council narrative

      Development of the name Minas Tirith for Gondor’s capital; Boromir on the prophecy of the Broken Sword; Tarkil (Aragorn) will come to Ond (Gondor) where his ancestors had been king; Elrond sent the Eagles to look for Gandalf when he was being held prisoner.

      30. The Third Version

      A long quotation from a rough manuscript on the same paper: 1. of Gloin’s story; and 2. Galdor of Mirkwood on Gollum’s escape—close to final text, though in the wrong order within the chapter; then 3. a long quotation of the history of the Numenorean kingdoms by Elrond. Story of how Aragorn’s ancestors were ejected as Kings by the traitorous city: question to Boromir of whether Aragorn should return now. The sword was broken then, not in battle with Sauron. The Kings went North, but the subsequent North-kingdom declined and disappeared.

      An unconnected manuscript describing the distribution of the Elves on Middle-earth after Beleriand was destroyed.

      The first version of the dream-verse that Boromir heard was unfortunately lost since part of this draft has disappeared. Interesting names first appearing: Khazaddum; Osgiliath, Minas Anor and Minas Ithil; Bay of Belfalas; Imlad-ril (later Imladris); Osforod (later Fornost). Also Bombadil’s other names.

      31. The Fourth Version

      The next complete manuscript of the Council chapter is a confusing mess. It follows the "Third Version" fairly closely at the beginning: 1. Gloin, 2. Galdor on Gollum’s escape, and Gandalf’s comments. Then follows, newly expanded, 3. Elrond’s account of the Rings, the last Battle, and the later decay of Gondor. 4. Boromir makes his speech; the Dream verse is first seen. 5. Aragorn presents his Sword. 6. Aragorn’s tale of the North kingdom; this now has the sword being broken when Elendil fell.

      At this point, close to where the "Third Version" stopped, Tolkien stopped again, and went back and reordered the sequence and adding more material; this will be the "Fifth Version", see below, which will follow Aragorn with 1. Bilbo 2. Gandalf accounting for the Ring and connecting Bilbo’s Ring with Isildur’s Bane 3. The hunt for Gollum 4. Galdor’s tidings of Gollum’s escape 5. Frodo’s story 6. Gandalf’s captivity 7. Bombadil.

      But first, before presenting the "Fifth Version",

      32. Gandalf’s Tale

        Here in full is the first writing of Gandalf’s encounter with Saruman and his pursuit of Frodo and the Riders. Introduction of Radagast, location and description of Isengard and Orthanc, dialogue with Saruman who is completely a vassal of Sauron, captivity on top of Orthanc, sending of the Eagles, escape to Rohan the horse country, introduction of Greyfax/Shadowfax, interview with the Gaffer, cottage empty at Crickhollow, siege on Weathertop.

  12. The Council of Elrond (2)
    1. 33. The Fifth Version

      34. Gandalf’s Tale

      35. NOTES

      36. Note on Thrór and Thráin

  13. The Ring Goes South
  14. The problems have now been solved. Trotter is now Aragorn, the hobbits have settled into the final four, Bombadil is retired, and the riddle of Gandalf’s disappearance is solved. "With that answer had arisen (as it would turn out) a new focal point in the history of the War of the Ring: the Treason of Isengard." (p. 161)

      37. Choosing of the company

      Notes on the "August 1940" paper debating the company’s membership. Final elimination of an Elf-lord or Half-elf like Erestor, and final inclusion of Merry and Pippin.

      38. Clear manuscript of "The Ring Goes South"

      Little variation from final text. Chronology still has them leaving in late November, not late December. Confusion of the "Dimrill Stair" with the "Redhorn Pass" which survives into the published text. Choosing of the company, in alternate versions. Reforging of the Sword, named Branding. No blowing of Horn on departure, less detail on arms and clothing, no "missing rope" scene.

      39. Rivendell to Hollin

      More development, still very close to final text. Brief excerpts from the draft text. Identification of the three Peaks of Moria. The River on the other side is the Blackroot, or Morthond. First mention of Lothlorien. Threat of Fangorn, the Topless Forest, quickly deleted. In the debate, Trotter/Strider favors Moria, Gandalf the Pass. Descent from Caradhras: extensive excerpt, showing the diminishment of Gandalf’s ill-humor from Shadow, closer to final text.

      40. NOTES

        14. Origins of the "sit beside the fire" verse. 18-22. Comments on the Dwarvish and Elvish names for the mountains of Moria.

  15. The Mines of Moria (1): The Lord of Moria
  16. The fair manuscript rewriting of the first part of the Moria journey, from this same period (late 1940?). It is the last rewrite, as the earlier drafts covered in Shadow stopped at Balin’s tomb. Most of "A Journey in the Dark" resulted from this rewrite.

      41. Debate in Hollin; the Doors.

        Uncertain geography of Gondor: the location of the Seven Rivers seems to be in Rohan. Barad-dûr first mentioned. Wargs and journey to the Doors almost reaches final text. Continuing idea of the two western doors to Moria. Elimination of mentions of the Moon (all but one) when T. realized it would not be present at dusk.

  17. The Mines of Moria (2): The Bridge
    1. 42. The Mines of Moria (ii)

  18. The Story Foreseen from Moria
    1. 43. Sketch of Plot

  19. Lothlórien
  20. Galadriel
  21. Farewell to Lórien
    1. 44. a

      45. b

      46. c

      47. (i)

      48. (ii)

      49. (iii)

      50. (iv)

      51. (v)

      52. (vi)

      53. (vii)

      54. (viii)

      55. NOTES

      56. Additional Notes on the name Elfstone

  22. The First Map of The Lord of the Rings
    1. 57. The original element in the First Map

      58. The 1943 Map

      59. The redrawn maps in this book

      60. Maps I and IA

      61. Map II

      62. Maps IIIA and III

      63. Maps IVA to IVE

      64. IVA

      65. Map IVB

      66. Map IVC

      67. Map IVD and Map IVE

      68. No Man’s Land and the Dead Marshes

  23. The Story Foreseen from Lórien
    1. 69. (i) The Scattering of the Company

      70. (ii) Mordor

  24. The Great River
    1. 71. NOTES

      72. Note on Time in Lórien

  25. The Breaking of the Fellowship
  26. The Departure of Boromir
  27. The Riders of Rohan
    1. 73. NOTES

      74. Note on the Chronology

  28. The Uruk-Hai
  29. Treebeard
    1. 75. NOTES

      76. The Song of the Ent and the Entwife

  30. Notes on Various Topics
  31. The White Rider
  32. The Story Foreseen from Fangorn
  33. The King of the Golden Hall
  34. Appendix on Runes
    1. 77. (i) The Elvish Alphanets

      78. (ii) The ‘Alphabet of Dairon’


From the TORn Reading Room:

Nick: an seileachan Date/Time: Mon, 6/20/2005 at 6:30 PM EST In Reply To: Time and Wisdom <CelebornsMirror> [6/20 @ 4:06 PM] (4/35)

Subject: A Question of Time

Message: Verlyn Flieger's book, "A Question of Time: JRR Tolkien's Road to Faerie" addresses the issue of time travel and time, well, slippage let's say, in Tolkien's stories.

For one thing, she addresses the word "Lorien", which is one of the earliest known defined words in Tolkien's lexicon. "Contemporary with" his writing of the first version of "Cottage of Lost Play" in 1917 are "two small books containing the earliest lexicons of the Elvish languages, cited by Christopher Tolkien in his appendix to Part I of BOLT". Lorien "a derivitive of the root LORO, 'slumber', with variants olm, oloth, olor, meaning 'dream, apparition, vision'". So the word VERY EARLY on meant something like dream-vision.

She further quotes an essay by Tolkien written in 1954, part of an index of names he prepared for LOTR, which gives "Olorin" as an Elven name for Gandalf "and cites Olor as 'a word often translated "dream," but that does not refer to (most) human "dreams", certainly not the dreams of sleep. To the Eldar it included the vivid contents of their memory, as of their imagination: it referred in fact to clear vision, in the mind, of things not physically present at the body's situation. But not only to an idea, but to a full clothing of this in particular form and detail'" (and she cites Unfinished Tales here).

She further cites Unfinished Tales with another note from Christopher about "'an isolated etymological note' that gives a similar explanation of meaning: 'olo-s: vision, "phantasy": Common Elvish name for 'construction of the mind' not actually (pre)existing in Ea apart from the construction, but by the Eldar capable of being by Art (Karme) made visible and sensible'".

construction of the mind made visible and sensible, I emphasize that part!

So, all that long introduction to quote even MORE Flieger!

As we all know, Tolkien was interested in time-travel. It's what the challenge with Lewis was all about, but he was interested anyway. He knew something of J.W. Dunne's "Theory of Time", which he wrote about in a book called "An Experiment With Time" in 1927. I can't summarize it; I'll put a link below to the only decent web site I could find in a very cursory Google search. But time can be different depending on one's perspective. Time is not fixed; time is experienced, dependent upon perception and observation...and point in space from which observing.

Anyway, one of the ways Tolkien fooled around with Dunne's theory of time is through dream travel. Hence "Notion Club", etc.

but Tolkien also spent a VERY long time trying to get the wording right, when the Fellowship describe time in Lothlorien. It's important. We notice the Fellowship talking about it. We just don't understand what they're talking about.

At first, Tolkien fooled around with trying to make time actually pass differently-RELATIVE TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD-while the company was in Lorien. However, while it did seem to pass "differently", they actually came into Lorien on Jan 17 and left on Feb 16. Time was not LOST. Time was somehow DIFFERENT.

Flieger states that notes and hand-drawn schematics of this developing chapter make it clear that Tolkien was trying out some of his ideas in line with Dunne's theory. It has to do with the chapter "Farewell to Lorien" (sorry to get ahead, but I think it's important). It happens when Haldir comes to the company and announces he has been sent to be their guide again. He reports that he has "returned from the Northern Fences" and reports to them of the doings there, the smoke seen, the noises heard, etc. Then there are some lines struck out in the manuscript of one of the drafts, and above are the pencilled words: "This won't do--if Lorien is timeless, for them nothing will have happened since they entered". In other words, according to Flieger, "It 'won't do' to have an Elf in a timeless land report things happening in time."

Tolkien needed and wanted to allude to the differences in time: Elven immortals experience time differently than mortal Men. But he simply alluded to this, after making many attempts to more explicitly illustrate it in text.

Flieger cites HOME "Treason of Isengard" as the volume that Christopher has this exhaustive discussion of the many textual changes here. I don't have the volume, so can't check.


Nick: dernwyn Date/Time: Mon, 6/20/2005 at 10:48 PM EST In Reply To: A Question of Time <an seileachan> [6/20 @ 6:30 PM] (2/8)

Subject: The HoME references

Message: Wow, a.s.!

I think what Flieger was referring to, was this section, actually from "The Great River". Christopher T. writes:

'The conversation concerning Time in Lothlórien was developed in several competing and overlapping riders, and when I came to make my copy my father evidentlly instructed me to set the passage out in variant forms...The conversation that follows contains two pairs of alternatives, which I here mark with numbers: 1 to 1 or 2 to 2 being alternatives, and (within 2) 3 to 3 or 4 to 4 being alternatives.

1 'The power of the Lady was on us,' said Frodo. 'I do not think that there was no time in her land. There are days and nights and seasons in Lothlórien; and under the Sun all things must wear to an end sooner or later. But slowlly indeed does the world wear away in Caras Galadon, where the Lady Galadriel wields the Elven Ring.' 1

2 Legolas stirred in his boat. 'Nay, I think that neither of you understand the matter aright,' he said. 'For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the flowing/endless stream. Yet beneath the Sun all things must wear to an end at last.' 2

3 'But Lórien is not as other realms of Elves and Men,' said Frodo. 'The Power of the Lady was upon us. Slow for us there might time have passed, while the world hastened. Or in a little while we could savour much, while the world tarried. The latter was her will. Rich were the hours and slow the wearing of the world in Caras Galadon, where the Lady Galadriel wields the Elven Ring.' 3

4 'But Lothlórien is not as other realms of Elves and Men,' said Frodo. 'Rich are the hours, and slow the wearing of the world in Caras Galadon. Wherefore all things there are both unstained and young, and yet aged beyond our count of time. Blended is the might of Youth and Eld in the land of Lórien, where Galadriel wields the Elven Ring.' 4

I'll let others figure these out...

Houghton Mifflin Books site listing for The Treason of Isengard


The Treason of Isengard is the seventh volume in Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-earth and the second in his account of the evolution of The Lord of the Rings. In this book, following the long halt in the darkness of the Mines of Moria with which The Return of the Shadow ended, is traced the great expansion of the tale into new lands and new peoples south and east of the Misty Mountains; the emergence of Lothlorien, of Ents, of the Riders of Rohan, and of Saruman the White in the fortress of Isengard. In brief outlines and pencilled drafts dashed down on scraps of paper are seen the first entry of Galadriel, the earliest ideas of the history of Gondor, the original meeting of Aragorn and Eowyn, its significance destined to be wholly transformed. Conceptions of what lay ahead are seen dissolving as the story took its own paths, as in the account of the capture of Frodo and his rescue by Sam Gmgee from Minas Morgul, written long before J.R.R. Tolkien actually came to that point in the writing of The Lord of the Rings. A chief feature of the book is a full account of the original Map, with re-drawings of successive phases, which was long the basis and accompaniment of the emerging geography of Middle-earth. An appendix to the book describes the Runic alphabets as they were at that time, with illustrations of the forms and an analysis of the Runes used in the Book of Mazarbul found beside Balin's Tomb in Moria.

Harper Collins Australia listing for The Treason of Isengard

The Treason of Isengard continues the account of the creation of The Lord of the Rings started in the earlier volume, The Return of the Shadow.

It traces the great expansion of the tale into new lands and new peoples south and east of the Misty Mountains: the emergence of Lothlorien, of Ents of the Riders of Rohan, and of Saruman the White in the fortress of Isengard.

In brief outlines and pencilled drafts dashed down on scraps of paper are seen the first entry of Galadriel, the earliest ideas of the history of Gondor, and the original meeting of Aragorn and Eowyn, its significance destined to be wholly transformed.

The book also contains a full account of the original map which was to be the basis of the emerging geography of Middle-earth; and an appendix examines the Runic alphabets, with illustrations of the forms and an analysis of the Runes used in the Book of Mazarbul found beside Balin's tomb in Moria. listing for The Treason of Isengard

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Treason_of_Isengard".

The History of The Lord of the Rings is a 4-volume work by Christopher Tolkien that documents the process of J. R. R. Tolkien's writing of his masterwork The Lord of the Rings (LotR). The History is also numbered as volumes 6 to 9 of The History of Middle-earth. Some information can also be found in volume 12, The Peoples of Middle-earth (concerning the appendices and a soon-abandoned sequel to the novel).

Although at first blush this might seem like four volumes of stupefying dullness, it has some saving graces. First, despite its limitations as literature, LotR has been enormously popular since its publication, some sales numbers showing it outdone only by the Bible, and any aspiring fantasy writer should like to know how he did it. Second, Tolkien began writing his sequel to The Hobbit without any idea of where he was going with the story, and in the 15-year genesis there were many twists and turns before the story took on its published form. Third, the gigantic backstory of the legends of Middle-earth that became The Silmarillion were mostly written before LotR was penned, and one can see how the tale of here-and-now adventure is stitched into the memories of ages long past. Finally, there is an intimate note, in that the young Christopher participated in the writing of LotR, giving feedback, helping draft maps, etc, and this history includes his personal recollections of the process.

The Return of the Shadow (1988) begins with the initial composition, and goes through to the episode in the Mines of Moria.

The Treason of Isengard (1989) continues to the meeting with Theoden king of Rohan.

The War of the Ring (1990) continues to the opening of the Black Gate.

Sauron Defeated (1992) finishes the story, which only takes about 1/3 of the volume. The remainder consists of the rather odd "The Notion Club Papers", and another draft of the Drowning of Anadune.

In general, the books are organized as chapters corresponding to the chapters in the final LotR, with additional chapters describing the "First Map", the "Second Map", and other matters. Each chapter begins with some context, then the text of a first or second draft, possibly some alternate drafts if there were especially large changes, and interspersed with extended discussion of confusing or contradictory situations. The end of each chapter includes a set of notes about points of interest, such as words that were used originally and then partially erased or struck out.

The drafts can be somewhat jarring to read; while much of the plot will be familiar, the characters are often quite different. For instance, Aragorn in his "Strider" guise is called "Trotter" instead - and he's a hobbit instead of a man - and he has wooden feet - because he had once been to Mordor and been tortured there. We find out that the hobbits travel east initially because that was the part of the world that had been mapped out, because of The Hobbit, and that the areas to the south were literally being mapped out only a few miles ahead of the fellowship.

Still, even though publication of the drafts exposes some of the improvised carpentry behind the stage sets, for the Tolkien enthusiast they offer a fuller understanding of the story, and a renewed appreciation for Tolkien's creativity.

Of particular interest to fans is the dropped Epilogue to LotR, in which a middle-aged Samwise Gamgee is reading the story to his children.


Three of the titles of the volumes of The History of The Lord of the Rings were also also used as book titles for the 7-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the Shadow for Book I, The Treason of Isengard for Book III and The War of the Ring for Book V.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium

Works published during his lifetime

The Hobbit | The Lord of the Rings | The Adventures of Tom Bombadil | The Road Goes Ever On

Posthumous publications

The Silmarillion | Unfinished Tales | The History of Middle-earth (12 volumes) | Bilbo's Last Song

Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, by Brian Rosebury, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

The second point that needs to be admitted is that aspects of the posthumous management, marketing and celebration of Tolkien’s work since his death in 1973 have inevitable invited skepticism and irritation, much of it unfair but some of it at least understandable. The vast commercial value of the Tolkien account to the various publishers who have acquired it is well known, and the prominence in the bookshops of HarperCollins’s seemingly inexhaustible output of reprints and spin-offs (audiotapes, calendars, diaries, art books, postcards and the like) would tempt many people to lob a rhetorical grenade or two in its direction. Moreover, much of the actual newly published work by Tolkien could not be expected to get, and did not get, favorable reviews – or before long, reviews at all, except from the most dedicated enthusiasts. The period 1983-96 saw the posthumous publication, under the devoted and persuasive editorship of Christopher Tolkien, of volume after volume of unfinished writings, including not only incomplete fragments but also justifiably discarded or revised drafts. These volumes (especially the series called The History of Middle-earth) are of value to scholars interested in Tolkien’s creative development, to whom they represent, in effect, uniquely well-transcribed and well-presented manuscript sources; and they include works, or passages, of considerable interest and beauty. But in view of the high proportion or rudimentary, immature and mishandled material they also contain, it is difficult to feel sure that their commercial publication at such exhaustive length has been wise (I accept that there would have been practical and evaluative difficulties attached to selective publication), and I take leave to doubt the thoroughness with which they are usually read. No author’s reputation could escape a certain risk from the publication of such materials on such a scale – certainly not that of Tolkien, who was, as I shall argue later, a slow developer who took many years to free himself from compositional misconceptions and unhelpful influences. (pp 3-4)

"‘An industrious little devil’: E. V. Gordon as friend and collaborator with Tolkien", by Douglas A. Anderson, in Tolkien the Medievalist, ed. Jane Chance, London: Routledge, 2003.

Tolkien’s poem [The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth . . . ] was first published in 1953 as a contribution to Essays and Studies, where, as a literary creation, it fits somewhat uneasily. Tolkien had certainly written it before 1945, and Shippey points out [in his essay "Tolkien and ‘The Homecoming . . . ‘"] that some of Tolkien’s commentary, published along with the poem, seems to have been composed in direct response to Gordon’s statements in his 1937 edition of The Battle of Maldon. However, the inspiration for Tolkien’s poem seems to predate Gordon’s edition by some years. Christopher Tolkien has published a fragment of an earlier conception of his father’s verse-play (then in rhyming dialogue), which he dates to the early 1930s, and he references a still earlier text (Treason, 106-7). Thus, while the verse-play itself might have existed before Gordon’s edition, the additional commentary, added by Tolkien to the poem (probably in order to justify its inclusion in a collection of literary criticism), may be the only part directly influenced by Gordon’s work. (p. 21)

Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England, by Jane Chance, Lexington: U. Press of Kentucky, 2001, rev. ed.

In defining the parameters of the work’s structure, [note 8] Tolkien declares that "[t]he only units of any structural significance are the books. These originally had each its title."[note 9] . . . book 2, "The Ring Goes South"; book 3, "The Treason of Isengard"; book 4, "The Ring Goes East"; . . . the title of each thematically and symbolically supports the crowning title, "The Lord of the Rings," by revealing some aspect of the adversary or the hero through a related but subordinate title that fixes on the Ring’s movements and the ambiguity of its "owner" or "bearer," . . . (p. 145)

[note 8]: For other views of structure in the trilogy, see, for example, Helms, "Tolkien’s World: The Structure and Aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings," chap. 5 of Tolkien’s World.

[note 9]: Quoted from a letter by J. R. R. Tolkien appended to Everett, p. 87.

The two towers of the title belong to Saruman and in a sense to Shelob because the quest of the remainder of the Fellowship in book 3 culminates in an attack on Orthanc and because the quest of Frodo and Sam in book 4 leads to their "attack" on Cirith Ungol, the sentry tower at the border of Mordor guarded by the giant spider . . . Through these two monsters represented by their towers, this second part of The Lord of the Rings defines the nature of evil in greater detail than the first part. Thus, it also introduces the notion of the Christian deadly sins embodied in the monsters (found in the Ancrene Wisse), which must be combated by very Germanic heroes. (p. 162)

Tolkien shows the analogy between the two monsters and their towers by structuring their books similarly. The perversion of mind embodied in Saruman is expressed by the difficulty in communication through or understanding of words or gestures in book 3, and the perversion of body personified in Shelob is expressed by the difficulty in finding food and shelter, or hospitality, in book 4. Specifically, Wormtongue, Grishnakh, and Saruman all display aspects of the higher sins of pride, avarice, envy, and wrath through their incomprehension or manipulation of language. Gollum and Shelob both illustrate the lower sins of gluttony, sloth, and lechery. Each book centers on the adventures of only part of the Fellowship, the nobler members in book 3 (Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, and Merry and Pippin) and the more humble members in book 4 (Sam and Frodo). (p. 164)

If book 3 demonstrates the intellectual nature of sin, then book 4 demonstrates its physical, or material, nature. Although the structure of Shelob’s tower of Cirith Ungol ends this book as Orthanc ends the third, the tower is never described in this part. Instead, another tower—Minas Morgul—introduces the weary group to the land they approach at the book’s end . . . As a type of corpse it focuses attention on the human body, whose perverse desires preoccupy Tolkien in this book. (p. 168)

Chance maintains that Book IV is about the body, about food. She cites the focus on the disgusting Gollum, Shelob, the Dead Marshes, the rabbit stew episode, even the hospitality of Faramir and Gollum’s hunt for fish in the Forbidden Pool.

Tolkien After All These Years, by Douglas A. Anderson, in Meditations on Middle-Earth, ed. Karen Haber, 2001

The volumes of the History of Middle-earth series, which cover the writing of The Lord of the Rings, are a special treat, for in them we learn a great deal about how Tolkien worked as a writer. Christopher Tolkien’s account—in essence the history of the writing of a book—is unlike any other literary history, for in it we see the authorial process itself at work, and in great detail. Tolkien made many hasty notes to himself, and lengthy outlines, about the direction of the story, about why it could or couldn’t go such and such a way. All these thoughts and arguments are written out. We literally see Tolkien thinking on paper, and we can share with Tolkien the wonder and bewilderment of new characters appearing as if from nowhere. What a privileged viewpoint this is. (p. 144-5)

"Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-Conflict in Middle-earth", by Verlyn Flieger, in J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth, ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons, Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Flieger argues that Tolkien both tries to make forests scary and dangerous, and sympathetic as the victims of people. She points out that both the Hobbits and Saruman are seen to take axes to woods, but one is considered positive, one negative. She shows that the character of Treebeard contains this inherent conflict of sympathy in Tolkien.

Fangorn and Treebeard began to take shape in the "third phase," during which the character of Treebeard altered drastically. Both Fangorn and Treebeard make their first appearance in Gandalf’s account to Frodo . . . "I was caught in Fangorn," says Gandalf, "and spent many weary days as prisoner of the Giant Treebeard" (Shadow 363). Neither a tree nor a good guy as yet, this Treebeard is unmistakably a villain whose imprisonment of Gandalf adumbrates the more purposeful imprisonment by Saruman that eventually replaced it . . . .By the time Merry and Pippin escape the orcs and arrive at Fangorn Forest in what Christopher Tolkien calls the "fourth phase," many things had changed. Tolkien’s comment to W. H. Auden that "Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure" (Letters 216-17) almost certainly refers to the hobbits’ encounter with a Treebeard now not only completely treeified, but radically reimagined. Indeed, it is tempting to speculate that the apparently self-contradictory speech of Tom Bombadil [about the Old Forest hating those that try to destroy it] quoted above may have been one cause, at least, of the change in his character . . . may have led to the development of a tree guardian who speaks for the trees in their own voice. Tolkien had written himself into what, when it is divorced from the undeniable spell of the story, is clearly an untenable position. He has espoused two unreconcilable attitudes with regard to nature wild and nature tamed. (p. 154)

She does not cite Treason of Isengard, but check to find out where Treebeard first becomes "good", not "bad" – Shadow, or Treason. Oooh: She does not cite the location of the transformation, because of course that is how it is in the final published version in Two Towers. So maybe this is not a good example of the use of Treason in analyzing the LotR’s development!

"The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings", by Richard C. West, in A Tolkien Compass, ed. Jared Lobdell, La Salle, Open Court: 1975.

As George H. Thompson notes, Tolkien permits himself a certain neatness of plot at beginning and end, while reserving the most complex interweaving for the central portion [note 20]. . . . Parallel plot lines in Book III, "The Treason of Isengard," are Gandalf’s awakening of the Rohirrim, and Merry’s and Pippin’s awakening of the ents to the menace of Isengard, an imitation Mordor.

Even a reader unconcerned with literary form or structure must notice, at least unconsciously, the apparently meandering manner of the plot. The meeting with the ents in Book III will serve as an illustration . . . thus the chain of events can be traced as far back in the history of the ring as the reader pleases. Such casual collisions of disparate people and events—in a manner familiar because it is the way in which things seem to us to happen in our own lives—knit the fabric of the story. The ents are hardly creatures who wait in the wings to be called on to attack Saruman; rather as Treebeard tells the hobbits, "‘I go my own way; but your way may go along with mine for a while!’" . . . Removing them from the narrative would destroy the cohesiveness of the whole. The narrative is not loose, except to a superficial view; everything is interconnected. (pp. 83-84)

"‘A continuing and evolving creation’": Distractions in the later History of Middle-earth", by Wayne G. Hammond, in Tolkien’s Legendarium, ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press: 2000.

[Tolkien] never made [The Hobbit] thoroughly consistent with The Lord of the Rings . . . the book would have lost much of its original charm if it had undergone too great a revision.

The Lord of the Rings was a very different matter. It was not written for children, after its earliest workings; and it was written to be published, whereas The Hobbit had been meant for a private audience and only by chance had come to the attention of the world. The History of Middle-earth shows in detail the remarkable pains that Tolkien took to make The Lord of the Rings as good, as consistent, as correct as he possibly could, for the sake of readers he did not know but could only anticipate. It says a good deal about his character that he assumed such a significant burden of responsibility not only to those who had read and liked The Hobbit, but even more so to a public he could not be sure would exist, for a much longer and darker book that might never be printed. (p. 22-23)

"The Literary Value of The History of Middle-earth", by David Bratman, in Tolkien’s Legendarium, ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press: 2000.

Some [scholars] have even implied, though rarely stating it directly, that Tolkien lacked the discrimination to properly evaluate his own work. Others have applied, or misapplied, Tolkien’s own dictum (borrowed from Dasent) that "We must be satisfied with the soup that is set before us, and not desire to see the bones of the ox out of which it has been boiled" (T, 22). They believe that The History of Middle-earth is a bony ox that should never have been published.[2] (p. 71)

2. T. A. Shippey discusses this point without endorsing it in the second edition of The Road to Middle-earth (255-260). [see passage from Shippey here]

The third style found in the Elder Days material is a cold, clear, unadorned, but pure and flowing style that Tolkien used mostly for essays and other nonnarrative fictions . . . This is the style of most of The Lord of the Rings appendices, and it is also the style of most of Unfinished Tales. It may therefore be called the Appendical style. (p. 74)

Part 1 of volume XII examines the drafts for the prologue and appendices of The Lord of the Rings in the same way that volumes VI-IX, "The History of The Lord of the Rings" subseries, do for the main text. (P. 75)

He is pointing out that Vol. XII on the Prologue and Appendices is properly part of the History of the LotR subseries.

Some narratives, that is, works that are stories rather than essays in format, are also affiliated with the Appendical style. Most important of these is The Lord of the Rings itself, in the writing of which Tolkien forged this style’s new accessibility, and the narratives postdating it show a distinct resemblance to it. Perhaps the finest is Aldarion and Erendis from Unfinished Tales. . . . Having completed The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was at the height of his storytelling powers at the time he wrote The New Shadow and Aldarion and Erendis, and the completed portions of these tales move smoothly and compellingly. They could have been successful stories on every level if the author had brought them to completion. (p. 78)

He applies his "Appendical style" characterization to the fictional prose of LotR.

The History of Middle-earth had begun with two rationales: to demonstrate that the mythological background behind The Lord of the Rings is not a cardboard fake, but has a real existence of its own; and to present "The Silmarillion" in its true form of multifarious and mutually contradictory versions, rather than as a single text. But neither of these purposes applies to this subseries ["The History of The Lord of the Rings"]. Unlike "The Silmarillion", The Lord of the Rings was brought to a completed form. The author made a final decision on what to keep and what to discard. This makes an enormous difference to the way the reader approaches these volumes. The subseries can be read as progress toward the goal of a completed text, which is not possible with the other books. The true value of the subseries lies in the pleasure and the instruction of watching, in the fullest of detail, a great author in the throes of creating his masterpiece.

Doubt it not: here is contained the demonstration of what makes Tolkien the greatest of all fantasy authors. Both the brilliance of his invention, and the work he put into refining it, are clearly laid out. There is a wealth of information in the drafts waiting to be tapped by enterprising scholars seeking to explore how Tolkien achieved his masterful result [5]. As Richard C. West has written, The Lord of the Rings manuscripts are invaluable:

[quote from West’s "A Progress Report", see separate citation below]

Because the subseries refers entirely to an approved exterior text as nothing else in The History of Middle-earth does, Christopher Tolkien arranges the manuscripts in as close to pure chronological order of composition as the evidence permits. Although the entire series is roughly chronological, in most volumes related texts are put together regardless of exact chronology; but in the subseries the reader follows the author through all the byways and backtracking of the creative process, rather than directly through the course of the story told. Every time Tolkien set pen to paper, new thoughts would occur to him. His incorporation of those thoughts brought a wealth of new detail to a previously sketched story. The result of this emphasis on the evolving work is that the plot of the subseries is not so much Frodo’s quest as the tale of the author writing about it. (pp. 83-84)

At the beginning the tale is ragged indeed . . . he begins from scratch a third time . . . having fleshed out this part of the story in full, he presses on through the Council of Elrond and brings his company to Balin’s tomb in Moria before going back again for one more quick rewrite of the earlier portions.

Later on, starting with Book III, parts of the story are achieved with such fluency that it is not necessary to print the full drafts to describe their minor differences from the final text. But Book IV, Frodo’s and Sam’s journey to Mordor, is much less easily perfected. Instead of being fluent, the first drafts are clumsy, and the author knows it: "The usual ‘goblin’ stuff is not good enough here," he notes to himself (VII, 340). It is curious how much these poorly constructed drafts are reminiscent of some undistinguished published fantasy novels of recent vintage. Tolkien’s first drafts are no poorer than some people’s final drafts. To the extent that genius is inspiration, Tolkien is simply a better writer than these others, but to the extent that it’s perspiration, his superiority is entirely due to the fact that he worked harder. (p. 84-85)

In some of the early drafts for Books IV and VI, Sam easily fools guards, fights off orc soldiers, and pushes Gollum into the Cracks of Doom . . . Despite the increased fluency of the writing and the conception, misconceived but abandoned ideas such as these give the impression that Tolkien knew whereof he wrote when he gave Sam as Ringbearer wildly improbable dreams of heroism. The author was having such dreams himself . . . All these transformations show Tolkien’s skill at turning his own weaknesses in the first draft into his story’s strengths in the final draft. The hobbits’ believability as characters is partly the result of the author’s giving them his own fallacies and weaknesses in this way. (p. 85)

If meaning and significance were not always achieved easily, neither was the ideal language. Stylistic change is an important matter often passed over quietly if not silently in the commentary. There are many passages of the text where the author achieved something remarkably close to his final form in the first draft, but even in the last rewritings given, often much stylistic refinement remains to be done. Though it’s minor, subtle, and doesn’t change the narrative, stylistic polishing is important in making The Lord of the Rings the great book that it is. Tolkien’s early drafts often have a breathless, informal style with many run-on phrases, contractions, and colloquialisms; and often, especially in the opening chapters, there are points made some distance after they’re relevant, because the author had just thought of them. All these flaws are meticulously corrected in the final text. (p. 86)

Paradoxically, the subseries also offers the opportunity to correct previously unsuspected errors in the final text of The Lord of the Rings itself. In the course of his study of the manuscripts, Christopher Tolkien has uncovered numerous examples of scribal errors, especially in amanuensis typescripts, not caught during subsequent review; and "ghosts" of earlier versions of the story that were overlooked during revisions bringing previously written chapters up to the current conception. This writer has catalogued elsewhere all such errors that Christopher Tolkien noted in the course of Volumes VI-IX (Bratman, "Corrigenda"). (p. 87)

Readers curious about the "making" of The Lord of the Rings, as one might watch a documentary on the making of a favorite movie, should read The Return of the Shadow and its successors in the subseries. (p. 88)


2. A more complex argument begins with the assumption that, since Tolkien published only materials that he had brought, at least provisionally, into a finished form, he would therefore not have wanted these incomplete works published . . . There is no evidence he would object. He neither destroyed his papers nor directed his heirs to do so, as so many authors have done. The Lord of the Rings manuscripts, possibly the most controversial of all Tolkien’s literary remains, have been available for scholarly examination in the Marquette University Library, with the author’s explicit understanding, since 1958. (p. 90)

5. The most thorough and effective use to date of the drafts for this purpose is in chapters 4 and 8-9 of Verlyn Flieger’s A Question of Time. (p. 90)

"Progress Report on the Variorum Tolkien", by Richard C. West, in Orcrist no. 4 (1969-70), as reprinted in Bratman, "The Literary Value of The History of Middle-earth", in Tolkien’s Legendarium (2000), p. 84.

It is possible to watch the story growing as Tolkien adds, rejects, and revises. We find that he was telling no more than the truth in admitting that he initially had no idea who Strider was . . . indeed, he at first thought the name was "Trotter," so let us be grateful that he changed his mind . . . True, we witness some of the things Tolkien cancelled for good reason, but if we pick them out of the scrap heap it is only to show how wise the author was to throw them there. And sometimes we happen upon something worthwhile . . . But most of all, in examining the stages undergone by this narrative from its inception to its final form, we are privileged to witness the creation of an artistic masterpiece, and may learn something of the imaginative processes that produce this. (p. 6-7)

"Tolkien’s Cauldron: Northern Literature and The Lord of the Rings", by Gloriana St. Clair, unpublished book, posted on, accessed Sept. 16, 2005.


No such close correlations exist for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. That Tolkien knew Norse mythology and literature is clear, that he used these works as a source of inspiration for the matter of Middle-earth is also apparent. But everything he used is changed and altered to meet the demands and needs of his original creation. Pieces of story, bits of character, descriptions of implements, themes and motifs, manners and customs are all borrowed, but nothing is left unaltered. In each instance, Tolkien changes materials to serve the needs of his own stories. The existence now of earlier versions of many of his works shows that he is one of the finest craftsmen of the century. He wrote, revised, and rewrote everything. He niggled over the details until he achieved perfection in story and style. He forged the raw materials of Northern literature into The Lord of the Rings with a level of craftsmanship that ranks him with top writers. (p. 3)


The Unfinished Tales and the volumes of The History of Middle-earth contain many nuggets of story which Tolkien could have shaped into fairy-story or some other genre, but which remain as fragments. Certainly, some of these tales have frames which indicate that they are being told to children. The existence of such a frame suggests that Tolkien may have intended them to be fairy-stories, but he was such an aggressive reviser and reshaper that forms frequently changed under his creative force. (p. 9)


In spite of his copious use of maps, Tolkien occasionally slipped on the details. A note in the front of The Hobbit, reports that the text on pages 32 and 62 has been made to correspond with the runes on Thror’s Map. His letters also record the correction of various errata in The Hobbit. (Letters, 28) 75 The publication of earlier versions of stories in The History of Middle-earth makes it possible for the scholar to see how extensively Tolkien revised. His conceptions of peoples (gnomes become elves) and heroes (see the discussion of Turin and his progenitors in Chapter 10). All changed extensively. The thoroughness with which he managed consistency in changes is a credit to his craftsmanship. (p. 35)

"Tom Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century and a Look Back at Tolkien Criticism since 1982", by Michael D. C. Drout and Hilary Wynne, in 128 Envoi 9.2 (Fall 2000). Also posted on

In contrast to the bleak state of critical bibliography, the historical and textual aspects of Tolkien scholarship now have a firm foundation. The past fifteen years have seen the editing and publication of The History of Middle-earth by Christopher Tolkien. This mammoth undertaking provides for scholars much of the material which Tolkien drew upon in developing the legends of Middle-earth, including multiple versions of the Silmarillion legends; unpublished, uncompleted works such as The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers; and the etymologies and other linguistic materials that underpin Tolkien’s invented languages.[8] Particularly valuable for general literary critics interested in Tolkien are the early drafts of The Lord of the Rings.[9] Christopher Tolkien’s detailed commentary and painstaking editing in every volume is the essential first step upon which criticism of these materials must build, and the works themselves allow Tolkien critics to trace the genesis and development of motifs, themes, and ideas in Tolkien’s work.

Good criticism will take into account the development of Tolkien’s ideas as illustrated in The History of Middle-earth. We are exceptionally fortunate to have such a resource, and simple inspection of the twelve volume series would eliminate a great many errors and redundancies in the criticism, particularly in the realm of source study. Just as no one attempts to pass him- or herself off as a Faulkner or Joyce critic without examining the posthumously published works, drafts, and notebooks of these authors, so too no one should write Tolkien criticism without making the effort to read The History of Middle-earth.

8. While it is not a work of literary criticism, J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, gives an invaluable look into Tolkien’s art and thought.

9. Volumes VI-IX of The History of Middle-earth (The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring and Sauron Defeated) are subtitled The History of the Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien’s commentary on the composition of LotR, including the Prologue and the Appendices, continues in The Peoples of Middle-earth.

The Road to Middle-earth, revised and expanded edition, Tom Shippey, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

What Bratman was referring to on doubts as to suitability of using drafts to study final work:

If Tolkien had had foresight into the future, one may wonder, would he have felt that his ban on wanting to see ‘the bones of the ox’ should have been extended from fairy-tale collections (which of course may well have had an especially complex history) to his own fictional works?

There are reasons why he might. A major danger must be that too much study of ‘the bones’ makes ‘the soup’ lose its savour. In other words again, it could destroy the appeal, or charm, or ‘glamour’ of a finished work to know that some particularly cherished feature of it was in fact only an authorial accident; while too much awareness of wrong turnings the author might have taken could blur one’s final sense of the right turning he did take. The risks are manifold. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, one might fear that too much looking at intermediary stages (in this case volumes VI-IX of ‘The History of Middle-earth’) could blur the edges of one’s perception of the final stage, or of the work as published (for even after publication Tolkien continued to have afterthoughts, as one sees from both the Unfinished Tales and volume XII of ‘The History of Middle-earth’); while in the case of The Silmarillion—which in a real sense never reached a final stage at all—over-careful picking over of volumes I-V and X-XI of ‘The History’ could easily lead to the loss of any sense of structure whatever.

If that were all that could happen, this chapter would have remained unwritten. Nevertheless, one has to face the fact that much of ‘The History of Middle-earth’ demands to be taken as ‘ox-bones’—though a proportion of it is unpublished original work, and some at least of the ‘bones’, like the Book of Lost Tales, are easy to read in their own right—and furthermore that the kind of reaction I have just suggested is at least a possibility, or, some of the time, a certainty. Yet one may reflect that much of the trouble . . . lies with the reader, and not with the author at all.

Other authors than Tolkien have, for example, created amazement in their readers by their seeming utter inability to understand the logic of what they were doing. Charles Dickens . . . got even the totally transparent name Murdstone . . . simply by writing a string of names across a page until he got one that felt right . . . In exactly the same way Tolkien dealt with several important queries by writing out a string of names, like ‘Marhad Marhath Marhelm Marhun Marhyse Marulf’ (Treason, p. 390), or—these are for Aragorn—‘Elfstone . . . Elfstan, Eledon, Aragorn, Eldakar, Eldamin, Qendemir’ (Treason, p. 276), or—these are for Shadowfax—‘Narothal, Fairfax, Snowfax, Firefoot[,] Arod? Aragorn?’ (Shaping, p. 351). It is a surprise to learn that Aragorn could ever have been a name for a horse; even more surprising, given what is said about the meaning of the name, in pp. 170-71 above, that Saruman could have been the meaningless ‘Saramond’ (Treason, p. 70).

All this comes as a shock. It may also prove an irritation. (p. 290-91)

Tolkien (we can see with hindsight) should have dropped the idea [the name Trotter] much earlier, along with much else: his preference for ‘hobbit-talk’ over action (see Shadow, p. 108), his strangely hostile picture of Farmer Maggot (Shadow, p. 291), his inhibiting confusions over the number and names of the hobbits with the Ring-bearer, over Gandalf’s letter via Butterbur, and the general ‘spider’s web’ of argumentation near the start of Lord of the Rings (see Treason, p. 52).

Meanwhile and conversely, it is almost dismaying—at least to the critic—to see what seems to be absolutely essential elements both of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings excluded sometimes till virtually the last moment . . . A harmless Ring, meaningless Silmarils: as one reads through "The History of Middle-earth’ it is possible to feel—and this applies especially to a reader who knows the finished works well—that Tolkien did not know what he was doing . . .

Yet having said all this—and it has been said with deliberately unmitigated bluntness—one has to consider in the end exactly what one’s criticism may be. It seems hardly fair to criticize an author for not writing the book one would have liked; even less fair to complain that he did write the book one would have liked, but failed to manage it on the first try! Perhaps the real danger in picking over ‘the bones of the ox’ is no more than this: it comes as a threat to our general notion of creativity. (p. 293-94)

How did Tolkien’s creativity work? A good deal has been said about self-reflection, ‘sleepwalking’ and creating ‘imaginative space’. Yet there is one further thought generated powerfully by reading Tolkien’s early drafts, though to elaborate it seems to conceded advantage to some of his fiercest critics. This is—I put it candidly in the hope of answering candour—that the drafts suggest his critics sometimes had the right idea; they detected in the finished work tendencies much more obvious in the medial stages, as also, on occasion and even more suggestively, motifs which remained forever buried to author and readers alike. Thus Edwin Muir (see above, p. 154) said that the non-adult nature of The Lord of the Rings was proven by its lack of genuine casualties. Théoden, Denethor, Boromir—these are the kind of characters who can be picked out in every Western as to-be-dispensed-with before the end. I have replied to Muir above. Yet in all candour one has to say that the early ‘phases’ of The Lord of the Rings show Tolkien struggling hard to prove Muir right. He really did not like scenes of pain. So, in The Treason of Isengard, we find Frodo laboriously explaining to Sam that though the orc hit him with a whip, he was still wearing his mithril-coat and didn’t feel it (p. 336, but cp. LOTR, p. 889). Much more seriously, the same volume [?] shows a long and thorough attempt to pardon even Saruman and bring him back into the fold, thrusting all responsibility for the pollution of the Shire onto a mere walk-on ‘baddie’, and in the process eliminating (or rather aborting) the eerie death and ghostly rejection of Saruman in Book VI, ch. 8. Earlier on, in The War of the Ring, it is strange to see Tolkien toning down Denethor, trying very hard not to write the scene in which the father rejects the dutiful son in love and admiration for the absent original (see War, pp. 327-34, and note Christopher Tolkien’s comments on p. 332). And these last two cases are not just the kindheartedness over minor matters which I conceded to Muir in the passage just mentioned, one written before ‘The History of Middle-earth’ began to appear. If persisted in, they would have led to major differences in the plot; to a story of much narrower emotional range, with far less sense of irrevocable loss; to a situation much closer to what Muir detected. And yet, of course, Tolkien did not persist with them. He wrote them in, and then he wrote them out. It may well have gone against his own personal grain: I note elsewhere (p. 232 above) that as soon as Tolkien did reach a hard solution he was liable to begin to soften it, and we can see now that reaching it was for him a laborious business in the first place. Still, grain or no grain, labour or no labour, he did it. Comparison of The Lord of the Rings with its drafts shows that Muir detected a tendency; his criticism of the entire and finished work remains false. (pp. 318-19)

And yet, in spite of all this, Dr. Brooke-Rose has a point. She feels that The Lord of the Rings, viewed as fantasy, is weighed down by ‘hypertrophic’ realism, by ‘naïve and gratuitious intrusions from the realistic novel’. Must genres always practice apartheid? Evidently not. Still, reading the drafts of The Lord of the Rings does make it clear what a temptation it was for Tolkien to fall back on the familiar clichés of the realistic novel . . .In general, one may say that especially in the earliest ‘phases’, whenever the hobbits become the central figures of the narration—the hobbits being obviously the most modernistic and novelistic characters in the book—Tolkien found himself getting bogged down in sometimes strikingly unnecessary webs of minor causation. How many hobbits set out with Frodo . . . how many letters did Gandalf write? Most of these questions would now appear to be easily soluble, but they were not easily solved. What Tolkien’s sometimes maddening hesitations show is exactly how difficult he found that blend of ancient and modern, realistic and fantastic, which in the end he developed so successfully, and so much to his critics’ disapproval. . . . Like Muir [Brooke-Rose] does see, with a certain insight, what [Tolkien] was tempted to be. The final point to make, obviously, is that while Tolkien might not have eradicated every trace of soft-heartedness (Muir) or ‘realistic hypertrophy’ (Brooke-Rose), he did nevertheless in the end and painfully fight off most of both temptations. (p. 321-22)

"Re-Vision: The Lord of the Rings in Print and On Screen", by Diana Paxson, in Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Janet Croft, Altadena, California, The Mythopoeic Press (2004).

By the winter of 1941 [Tolkien] had reached the point at which the final text of The Two Towers begins. As he came to points in the story which had been outlined earlier, many of them were changing. In early versions, after meeting with Gandalf, Trotter and the other companions go to Minas Tirith. What follows is summarized as, ‘Rest of war in which Gandalf and /on his eagle in white leads the assault must be told later—partly a dream of Frodo, partly seen by him (and Sam), and partly heard from orcs’ (The Treason of Isengard 389) . . . In scripting and shooting The Two Towers, Jackson and his crew faced the same difficulties as Tolkien in filling in the gap between Fellowship . . . and the resolution provided by The Return of the King. (p. 86-87)

The evolution of the character of Aragorn offers a particularly good opportunity to examine the process of revision in book and film. Not only do he and his role develop through the successive drafts of the book, the films’ increased emphasis on his actions and motivation provide one of their most significant changes in vision.

The following section details the evolution of Aragorn from Trotter, citing several passages in The Treason of Isengard.

"Colloquy Live: Frodo Lives! And So Does Tolkien Scholarship". Live online forum with Michael D. C. Drout. Moderator Scott McLemee. The Chronicle of Higher Education. (June 2004)

Question from Scott McLemee:

Aside from the question of Tolkien's place in literary history, there is the problem of the Tolkien canon itself, so to speak. During an interview, you mentioned that the publication of the multivolume History of Middle Earth -- a set of tales left unpublished at the time of the author's death, now running to a dozen volumes -- really threw scholars into some confusion during the 1980s. Would you discuss that a bit more? Is there anything like a consensus among readers (academic or otherwise) about how important this material is?

Michael D.C. Drout:

When it became clear that there would be a volume per year published for about twelve years, it seemed like scholarship dropped off as everyone just tried to absorb the enormous quantity of material. There's a real question if the History of Middle-earth is good in itself or only useful as source material. To some degree this is what people said about the Silmarillion, but it's now part of the Tolkien canon, so perhaps the same thing will happen with History of Middle-earth. I think this is unlikely, though, because the way Christopher Tolkien edited the material makes it very useful for scholars but very difficult for readers to just read and enjoy. That said, there are absolutely beautiful passages scattered throughout, particularly in the Book of Lost Tales I and II. And the alliterative verse in Lays of Beleriand is very good.

Question from Scott Kleinman, California State University, Northridge:

As a philologist trained under a curriculum largely designed by Tolkien, I'm interested in the question of how Tolkien's work can spark greater student interest in philology, Old English, Old Norse, etc. One thing I have noticed in the large linguistic apparatus in the materials published by Christopher Tolkien ("The Book of Lost Tales" and subsequent volumes) is that the development of the Elvish languages contains nearly every philolgical phenomenon I studied as an undergraduate. Can these materials have a pedagogical function? But this leads to another question: What role do you think these posthumous publications can have in Tolkien studies? What sorts of theoretical or practical issues do they raise?

Michael D.C. Drout:

Second part first: The two biggest issues that the posthumous material raises are: how much of it is JRRT and how much Christopher? Since the manuscripts aren't available, we just don't know, and there are some critics (not me, though), who think it should all be ignored or considered the work of someone else. The other question: since so few members of the audience read the History of M-e, why should critics, who might be working on audience-based or other approaches, use them? I think that it's very important for approaches that go "outside" Tolkien's texts (pace Derrida) that they also get their ducks in a row "inside" the texts. I wouldn't reject an article for TS that ignored the H of M-e material, but I'd send it back to the author with suggestions for reconsideration if there was something relevant.

As for philology, I think philology needs to come up with a simple student teaching text (maybe we should write one, Scott), that would allow students to learn it. Then you could use Elvish linguistics to teach. The problem is, it seems to me, that you're going to have a huge hurdle of convincing people to allow you to teach some of the elvish material when there are real-world languages that do all of the things that Tolkien makes elvish do. That said, in elvish it's often much neater and easier to see the transformations, etc.

"The Years’ Work in Tolkien Studies: Reviews: The History of The Lord of the Rings", by Douglas A. Anderson in Arda 1988-91: Annual of Arda-Research. Ed. Anders Stenström. Stockholm: Arda Society, 1994, pp. 128-135.

One could make a whole catalog of interesting tidbits from these books . . . but taken out of context and without the benefit of Christopher Tolkien’s commentary such a catalog would be mainly tantalizing while at the same time being extraordinarily unilluminating. (p. 131)

Just what is the audience for these books? . . .The good news about these three fat volumes (plus one third of another) is that the style in these volumes is that of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But these volumes are not always easy reading, especially when one is trying to follow closely Christopher Tolkien’s argument of the sequence of composition. On the other hand, many sections in these books are enormously readable simply in their own right, as out-takes or variations on what we have come to know as The Lord of the Rings.

Yet I think the most significant achievement of these volumes is that they show us how Tolkien wrote and thought. Nowhere else do we see as we do here the authorial process itself at work in such detail. Tolkien’s hastiest comments about where the story might proceed, or why it can or can’t go such and such a way—these queries to himself were written out: Tolkien is literally thinking on paper . . . We are shown innumerable instances in the minutest detail of the thought-process itself at work. We see the author fully absorbed in creation for its own sake. (pp. 133-34)

These volumes are by no means the final statement on the subject of the writing of The Lord of the Rings, but they are a towering monument of scholarship. Nothing less than several highly specialized volumes containing the full texts of all the drafts of The Lord of the Rings could supersede the achievements of these books. Yet there remains room to supplement Christopher Tolkien’s account, as the manuscripts themselves are further studied and explored by others. (p. 134)


Note discussion of structure of the Books vs. the Volumes.