Tolkien and the Silmarillion (Lion Publishing 1977)

A short book consisting mainly of the author’s anecdotes of meetings with Tolkien during the summer of 1966, where he encouraged Tolkien to continue his work on The Silmarillion and engaged in literary and religious discussions with him.

Also included are texts on the chronology and geographical composition of Middle-earth, Tolkien as a Christian writer, and the Inklings.

Kilby’s portrait works best on a psychological level, sometimes pointing out the contradictions in Tolkien’s remarks and way of thinking – his ”contrasistency”. At other times Kilby’s remembrances take the form of unconcealed genius-worship. Discussing the chronological beginning of Tolkien’s mythology, for instance, he remarks that ”It appeared to me as we talked together that the whole thing had begun, as he says, at birth. I sometimes felt it was almost prenatal” (p. 48).

In his discussion of the question of Tolkien as a Christian writer, Kilby more or less takes Tolkien’s own words as the final explanation. He points out the obvious similarities between biblical mythology and that of the Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings and seems satisfied with Tolkien’s own analysis, ignoring the ”contrasistencies” which could be said to pervade the religious undertones of Tolkien’s work. For instance, citing a poem by the Anglo-Saxon Christian poet Cynewulf, Kilby asks: ”Knowing that it was from such a context that ‘the whole’ of Tolkien’s mythology rose, can we any longer doubt its profound Christian associations?” (p. 58)

If you grant that the work of a writer is capable of being more complex than the writer himself anticipates or acknowledges, Kilby’s question is seen to be purely rhetorical. The Christian associations in Tolkien’s work are clear enough, but they do not stand alone – and it could be argued that a work like Silmarillion is more obviously in tune with Gnostic cosmology than the world of the New Testament. It seems to me that Tolkien and the Silmarillions – while entertaining enough on an anecdotical level – never really delves deep enough into Tolkien’s interesting ”contrasistencies”, at least with regards to his use of religious symbolism and allegory.

 

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The Mythology of Middle-earth (Thames and Hudson 1977)

I ordered this interesting-looking tome via Amazon’s marketplace for the princely sum of £0.01. The description did not state that it was a library book and so I was a little annoyed when I saw the poor state of the dust jacket. Having removed it, however, I found that the book actually looks much smarter without it.

The Mythology of Middle-earth is written by Ruth S. Noel, aka Ruth Helen Swycaffer Noel, who is also the author of The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle-earth and a number of science fiction novels under her pseudonym, Atanielle Annyn Noël. Browsing through its pages I can see references to Plato, Russian folk litterature, and Ra the Sun God, so this should make for an interesting read.

The text is divided into chapters: Themes, Places, Beings, and Things. There is also an Introduction, a Glossary, a Bibliography, and an Index.

Hardback. 198 pages.