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Old 09-02-2018, 09:31 AM   #1
pwalker8
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The Fall of Gondolin

The Fall of Gondolin, likely Christopher Tolkien's last book (he is 94), came out this past week. Like pretty much all of Christopher Tolkien's books, it's basically an academic book based on the back story of LOTR from JRR Tolkien's notes. Like the rest of his books, it's certainly interesting to Tolkien fans who want to know as much as they can find out.

But this isn't really about that per se, but rather what might have been and what might be. Tolkien's world is a very rich world with a lot of back story. Most of the broad outline was included in the Silmarillion, a work that was unique in the Christopher Tolkien books in that is was truly a narrative that was co-written by Guy Gavriel Kay, a very good writer in his own right. Most of the rest of the books are more scholarly treatments that go into how the various stories and characters changed over the some 50+ years that J.R.R. Tolkien worked on it. Parts of the Fall of Gondolin date back to 1918 while Tolkien was recovering in hospital during WW I.

J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973, at the age of 81. The Hobbit was published in 1937. LOTR was published in a three volume set starting in July 1954 and ending in Oct. 1955. The Silmarillion was published in 1977, some 50 years after the Hobbit. I've still got my first printing, first edition of the hard back that I bought in high school. Thus, The Hobbit comes out of copyright in the US in 2032, i.e. in 14 years.

There are quite a few writers who would love to play around in Tolkien's world. Terry Brooks' originally started writing stories based on Tolkien's works. This is, of course, the one of the arguments for releasing works into the public domain. Certainly, one could make movies for generations simply by using material from Tolkien's back story. They could also have a rich set of works set in the Tolkien Universe, much like the set of books set in the Star Wars or Star Trek universe. Perhaps the Tolkien family trust will go in that direction at some point, but I suspect not. More likely that we will see films based on some of the more famous parts of the history of Middle Earth mentioned in passing in LOTR, such as the Fall of Gondolin (which would make a great movie) and the Tale of Beren and Luthien (would in the right hands would make an even better movie)

But consider where we might be. If copyright laws had remained as they were back in 1978, we might be seeing a set of books by various authors set in Tolkien's world. Certain like the Star Trek/Star Wars universes, some very good, some bad, most somewhere in the middle. But most certainly, the high fantasy genre would be revitalized.

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Old 09-02-2018, 12:52 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
The Fall of Gondolin, likely Christopher Tolkien's last book (he is 94), came out this past week. Like pretty much all of Christopher Tolkien's books, it's basically an academic book based on the back story of LOTR from JRR Tolkien's notes. Like the rest of his books, it's certainly interesting to Tolkien fans who want to know as much as they can find out.

But this isn't really about that per se, but rather what might have been and what might be. Tolkien's world is a very rich world with a lot of back story. Most of the broad outline was included in the Silmarillion, a work that was unique in the Christopher Tolkien books in that is was truly a narrative that was co-written by Guy Gavriel Kay, a very good writer in his own right. Most of the rest of the books are more scholarly treatments that go into how the various stories and characters changed over the some 50+ years that J.R.R. Tolkien worked on it. Parts of the Fall of Gondolin date back to 1918 while Tolkien was recovering in hospital during WW I.

J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973, at the age of 81. The Hobbit was published in 1937. LOTR was published in a three volume set starting in July 1954 and ending in Oct. 1955. The Silmarillion was published in 1977, some 50 years after the Hobbit. I've still got my first printing, first edition of the hard back that I bought in high school. Thus, The Hobbit comes out of copyright in the US in 2032, i.e. in 14 years.

There are quite a few writers who would love to play around in Tolkien's world. Terry Brooks' originally started writing stories based on Tolkien's works. This is, of course, the one of the arguments for releasing works into the public domain. Certainly, one could make movies for generations simply by using material from Tolkien's back story. They could also have a rich set of works set in the Tolkien Universe, much like the set of books set in the Star Wars or Star Trek universe. Perhaps the Tolkien family trust will go in that direction at some point, but I suspect not. More likely that we will see films based on some of the more famous parts of the history of Middle Earth mentioned in passing in LOTR, such as the Fall of Gondolin (which would make a great movie) and the Tale of Beren and Luthien (would in the right hands would make an even better movie)

But consider where we might be. If copyright laws had remained as they were back in 1978, we might be seeing a set of books by various authors set in Tolkien's world. Certain like the Star Trek/Star Wars universes, some very good, some bad, most somewhere in the middle. But most certainly, the high fantasy genre would be revitalized.
Among my greatest heroes are Tolkien, Jack Vance, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling and Robert Jordan (who died too young.)
Others too have had great runs and fantastic books, but still those are at the top of my list.

But though those writers have produced great books and material, they are not the only source of great possibilities in literature and here I speak of my first love: Science Fiction.
The reason I say this is because just this week I noticed that LE Modesitt has churned out a good many more books since last I looked. (I have been overly busy with the Financial Market, and family matters though I am not complaining just explaining.)

I think literature has never been more blessed with great authors and great ideas.
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Old 09-02-2018, 03:29 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
The Fall of Gondolin, likely Christopher Tolkien's last book (he is 94), came out this past week. Like pretty much all of Christopher Tolkien's books, it's basically an academic book based on the back story of LOTR from JRR Tolkien's notes. Like the rest of his books, it's certainly interesting to Tolkien fans who want to know as much as they can find out.
I don't know if this will be his last work or not. In his Preface to Beren and Luthien he wrote ... "In my ninety-third year this (presumptively) my last book the long series of editions of editions of my father's writings ..." And yet, here we have another one.

It's odd because I recently requested (through the Overdrive mechanism) that our library add The Fall of Gondolin, and found that they bought it and that I was automatically put on the hold list (in the 3rd position) to borrow it. Obviously others had also requested it.

In the late 70s I first read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings — basically in one gulp — but I couldn't (or wouldn't) work my way through The Silmarillion. Until this year I had read a few of Tolkien's short works — loved Smith of Wooten Major and Farmer Giles of Ham — also enjoyed Leaf by Niggle, his essay On Fairy Stories, some of his poems and his translation of Sir Gwain and the Green Knight, but his other writings seemed too "dense."

This year I finally sat down and read Beren and Luthien and The Simarillion and, although I still think they make for "dense" reading I enjoyed the background of the Tolkien world. Not sure yet if I'll read The Children of Hurin or the Last Tale volumes, but the "history" of Gondolin interested me.

After reading these two books (The Simarillion and Beren and Luthien) I have a few observations. First, it's incredible how long JRR Tolkien dwelt on this world. It looks like it was a huge part of his life. Second, it's incredible how devoted Christopher Tolkien has been to publishing his father's unpublished works. At least fifty years of deciphering, rewriting, editing, and sifting through it all. I know I would never have the patience to do that. Third, the world Tolkien created (or "sub-created") is amazing. Incredible vision. Fourth, without the hobbits, I doubt we would even know about this world.

It was the hobbits (i.e., "us") that made The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings relevant. Stories are about people. Myths are about gods. And even the humans in The Simarillion were really gods or super heroes. Something well above us. I noted that, after the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien sent The Simarillion to his publishers. It sat there ... they wanted another "hobbit story." I think this is why so many of the recent "comic book hero" moves leave me cold. It's modern mythology, but the only mythology that is really interesting is when it involves people.

At least that's the way I look at it. I should add, however, without the depth of Tolkien's world built in The Silmarillion and his other unpublished stories, The Lord of the Rings would never had affected us the way it did — or at least the way it affected me. I half-way of gave up on fantasy (and SF) because I kept trying to find another Lord of the Rings, and I never did.

Sorry to ramble.
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Old 09-02-2018, 05:38 PM   #4
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Not sure yet if I'll read The Children of Hurin or the Last Tale volumes, but the "history" of Gondolin interested me.
I think it's in the Lost Tales or Unfinished Tales you will find the fall of Gondolin. It is a complete story and very good, and I have no idea why it doesn't appear in the Slimarillion as it fits it perfectly. Definately worth reading if you liked the Silmarillion. The only bit that is better is Beren and Luthien IMO.
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Old 09-03-2018, 06:57 AM   #5
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Among my greatest heroes are Tolkien, Jack Vance, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling and Robert Jordan (who died too young.)
Others too have had great runs and fantastic books, but still those are at the top of my list.

But though those writers have produced great books and material, they are not the only source of great possibilities in literature and here I speak of my first love: Science Fiction.
The reason I say this is because just this week I noticed that LE Modesitt has churned out a good many more books since last I looked. (I have been overly busy with the Financial Market, and family matters though I am not complaining just explaining.)

I think literature has never been more blessed with great authors and great ideas.
I think there are some authors who are good craftsmen, but struggle a bit with the ideas thing, while there are other authors who have great ideas, but struggle with the craft of writing. The really good ones have both. The authors who are good craftsmen have a tendency to be co-writers or write in other people's universes. It's not so much that the great writers are the only source of great possibilities, it's just that some writers struggle with original ideas. Plus writing in a known universe gives a writer instant access to an audience that they might not have otherwise. For most writers, the issue is finding an audience and an audience finding you. Brian Dailey is probably better known for his Star Wars books and Robotech books than he is for his more original books.

Just as a note, co-writing is not a new thing. Dumas apparently had a stable of writers who expanded out on his ideas and the use of his name, especially later in his career.
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Old 09-03-2018, 07:05 AM   #6
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The voice of the Silmarillion is very different than the voice of the Hobbit and LOTR. There is nothing inherent that says that the story of Beren and Luthien or the Fall of Gondolin can't be told in a similar voice as LOTR.
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Old 09-03-2018, 02:08 PM   #7
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I've not been a big fan of the histories loaded with commentary. I loved the Silmarillion and read it in the early 80s. The Unfinished Tales were good, and I loved The Children of Hurin. I wish more of he histories would have been pieced together as full stories by competent authors rather than scholarly works of exposition in pieces.
I began reading LOTR in 1978. And I saw Bakshi's animated movie soon after. I agree there are more movies that could be made from Tolkien's histories, but worry that there are not many competent people producing movies anymore.
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Old 09-03-2018, 06:11 PM   #8
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I've not been a big fan of the histories loaded with commentary. I loved the Silmarillion and read it in the early 80s. The Unfinished Tales were good, and I loved The Children of Hurin. I wish more of he histories would have been pieced together as full stories by competent authors rather than scholarly works of exposition in pieces.
I began reading LOTR in 1978. And I saw Bakshi's animated movie soon after. I agree there are more movies that could be made from Tolkien's histories, but worry that there are not many competent people producing movies anymore.
There is that. On the other hand, perhaps people wouldn't be quite as disappointed when the movie didn't stick closely to the original books.
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Old 09-04-2018, 12:10 PM   #9
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There are quite a few writers who would love to play around in Tolkien's world. Terry Brooks' originally started writing stories based on Tolkien's works...

But consider where we might be. If copyright laws had remained as they were back in 1978, we might be seeing a set of books by various authors set in Tolkien's world. Certain like the Star Trek/Star Wars universes, some very good, some bad, most somewhere in the middle. But most certainly, the high fantasy genre would be revitalized.
I know less about Tolkien than others here. But one of the things like liked about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and the first three Star Wars movies) is that there was this rich history in the background, much of it unspoken, but as a reader you could see that it was there.

I don't know what it is about fans (particularly fans of fantasy and sci-fi) that they feel the need to explore every last nook and cranny of a fantasy world, wringing every last little bit of magic possible out of it until they begin to resent it (something like what has happened to Star Wars when the prequels were released).

Often I think it is a better idea to enjoy something for what it is and then move on, rather than demanding more and more and more of something already enjoyed.
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Old 09-04-2018, 10:29 PM   #10
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I know less about Tolkien than others here. But one of the things like liked about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and the first three Star Wars movies) is that there was this rich history in the background, much of it unspoken, but as a reader you could see that it was there.

I don't know what it is about fans (particularly fans of fantasy and sci-fi) that they feel the need to explore every last nook and cranny of a fantasy world, wringing every last little bit of magic possible out of it until they begin to resent it (something like what has happened to Star Wars when the prequels were released).

Often I think it is a better idea to enjoy something for what it is and then move on, rather than demanding more and more and more of something already enjoyed.
Why do historians still write about WW II, the Napoleonic era and the American Civil War, when there are thousands of books already written and very little new territory to cover? Why are people so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and why do so many people write in the Sherlock Holmes universe? It's not just SF&F fans.

IMPO, people becomes fascinated by a subject and want to find out everything they can about it. One sees it with baseball, stamps, dinosaurs, computers, space and a myriad of other topics as well as favored SF&F universes. Heck, way back when Xena, the Warrior Princess was on, there was a huge online community and a lot of fanfic based on it. Same with Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's just the way a lot of people are wired.
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Old 09-05-2018, 12:51 AM   #11
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Often I think it is a better idea to enjoy something for what it is and then move on, rather than demanding more and more and more of something already enjoyed.
I moved on, but Tolkien pretty much spoiled me for other (often derivative and often banal) fantasy books. As for Star Wars ... by the time the third one came out (the third ORIGINAL one, apparently renumbered No. 6) I was pretty much jaded ... everyone in the freaking universe was closely related. The ewok teddy bears finished it off for me. I haven't watched a Star Wars since.
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Old 09-05-2018, 10:34 AM   #12
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Why do historians still write about WW II, the Napoleonic era and the American Civil War, when there are thousands of books already written and very little new territory to cover?
There is of course a difference between books about or set in a historical period and books set in a fictional universe.

It's not like every western ever written is set in the same universe as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or Lonesome Dove.

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Why are people so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and why do so many people write in the Sherlock Holmes universe? It's not just SF&F fans.
I'm aware it's not only SF&F. The Sherlock and Jane Austen continuations and the sequels to Gone With the Wind are all the same to me.

Hey, enjoy what you want to enjoy. I'll confess that I picked up the Karen Traviss Republic Commando Star Wars books

But I've always felt like fandom's habit of investing too much time into fictional universes and arguing about what is canon feels a little weird to me.
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Old 09-05-2018, 10:44 AM   #13
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But I've always felt like fandom's habit of investing too much time into fictional universes and arguing about what is canon feels a little weird to me.
Me too.

When I discover an author I like in the SFF genre, it is always my hope that they will wrap up what brought them to my attention in a reasonable amount time (or number of books) and move on to wowing me with something entirely new. They rarely do, and as a consequence, they rarely remain favorites for long.

I can't really blame them for not wanting to take the risk of hopping off the gravy train, but I can still hope. I'm an eclectic reader, and I like eclectic authors.
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Old 09-05-2018, 10:55 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
Me too.

When I discover an author I like in the SFF genre, it is always my hope that they will wrap up what brought them to my attention in a reasonable amount time (or number of books) and move on to wowing me with something entirely new. They rarely do, and as a consequence, they rarely remain favorites for long.

I can't really blame them for not wanting to take the risk of hopping off the gravy train, but I can still hope. I'm an eclectic reader, and I like eclectic authors.
This exactly.
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Old 09-05-2018, 12:42 PM   #15
Conan46
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Sequels and Prequels often ruin or diminish the better, original story. That has happened with Star Wars. One wishes they had stopped after the 3rd original movie which lost something even by that 3rd movie. LOTR was written as one continuous story originally and not a trilogy. That same power and continuity doesn't come across in modern trilogies and long running series. They quickly lose steam after the original context and theme peters out a few books into the series.
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