Where did you read that?

A Reading Room Quiz by squire, TheOneRing.net, June 22, 2010

6. The Lord of the Rings, II.5, “The Bridge of Khazad-dûm”. Written by the "narrator" of LotR.  This book of Mazarbul was written by the Dwarves as a chronicle of their history in Moria. Its deteriorated and difficult-to-read state is a parody of medieval scholarship, referring among other things to the surviving manuscript of Beowulf. From what we know about them in The Hobbit and LotR, is it fitting that dwarves are explicitly included among the races who use traditional books to preserve cultural memory?

7. The Silmarillion, “Akallabeth”. Written by the "narrator" of Akallabeth, who is Elendil in some traditions. The reference is to the Numenoreans, the race of Men who most resembled the High Elves of ancient times. If the things the loremasters recorded are now “forgot”, how does the writer know they were “of wisdom and wonder”?

8. The Lord of the Rings, “Prologue”. Written by the "editor" of LotR. The reference is to the hobbits of the Shire. Why is it said that only in the “older families” did a “few remain” who still studied the world and its works through scholarship and reading?

9. The Lord of the Rings, IV.5, “The Window on the West”. The speaker is Faramir of Gondor. Why does he focus on the physical aspects of the texts, when we know he is in fact one of the few who can read them?

10. The Lord of the Rings, “Prologue”. Written by the "editor" of LotR. This speaks of Bilbo’s “original” account of his encounter with Gollum, paralleling and explaining the changes Tolkien made to The Hobbit’s riddles episode after the writing of The Lord of the Rings made the earlier version seem absurd and childish. Doesn’t this imply that the “revised” edition of The Hobbit (i.e., any edition published since 1951) should contain both versions of the story, just as “some” copies of the Red Book do?

1. The Lord of the Rings, IV.8, “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”. Sam is speaking, presumably of hobbit-customs for preserving and transmitting stories. Why does he seem to value equally the idea of oral and written traditions?

2. The Lord of the Rings, II.2, “The Council of Elrond”. Gandalf is speaking. He is commenting on the unique nature of a written text to preserve knowledge, if it can be decoded, after the knowledge of the language involved has been lost by its original owners. The culture in question is Gondor. Is its loss of language-knowledge symptomatic of its decline, or a natural process to be expected?

3. The Hobbit, XIX, “The Last Stage”. Written by the "narrator" of The Hobbit who is... Well, Bilbo is writing his memoirs at the end of the story, with a subtitle that matches the subtitle (“There and Back Again”) of the book he is a character in. This begins the “frame-device” that is extended in The Lord of the Rings: wherein the two books, written by Tolkien, are imagined to have been recovered and translated from ancient accounts written or compiled by the hobbits themselves. Why did Tolkien feel the need to add this “layer” to our reading of his story?

4. The Silmarillion, 13, “Of the Return of the Noldor”. Written by the "narrator" of The Sil.  The Elves of the First Age, in time of peace, partly define their civilization through literature. Is it likely that Elves, who are immortal, would have imperfect memories and so need to record written texts just as short-lived mortals do?  

5. The Lord of the Rings, Appendix D, “Calendars”. The writer of this appendix is indeterminate, within the frame-device of LotR being a recovered and translated work. Along with being a parody of medieval scholarship, how does this passage establish specifically the nature and limits of the hobbits’ uses of written text to preserve cultural memory?