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Tolkien's Legendarium and Literature as a Living Body

While the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings have gained their well-earned places in western literature, Tolkien’s published works were only a small scrap of the material he created and wrote about Middle-Earth over a span of 60 years. Tolkien’s ideas of Middle-Earth’s languages, history, and cultures changed time and time again, even in the span of writing a single short story. Tolkien’s ‘Legendarium’ evolved so frequently that it took a life of its own.

What does Tolkien’s Legendarium teach us about the creative process? Most of the work he created violently contradicted itself, does that impact what we view as ‘canon’? Can having this outside body of work flavor how we read the Lord of the Rings? Do the works published after his death, such as the Simarillion and the Children of Hurin count as Middle-Earth ‘canon’? Was it acceptable for Christopher Tolkien to compile these new books from his father’s works? Since new Tolkien work is being published to this very day, can we say that Tolkien’s stories are still evolving even in the post-Peter Jackson age?

  • Great topic. I'm not a big fan of Tolkien (I tried, but couldn't get into the whole LOTR franchise). That said, I'd be the first to say he is a freaking genius when it comes to creating fantasy worlds. Fantasy authors, IMHO, face unique challenges because along with characters and settings, they have to create the rules and standards for an entire fictitious society, and keep them consistent. Very few can do that. This is also a timely topic, considering how big fantasy still is (Harry Potter, Twilight, Once Upon a Time, Emerald City, you name it). I personally have former colleagues who'd love this article. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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  • This is a great topic. I would recommend reading what Christopher Tolkien has written about publishing his father's work. If you own some of the works mentioned, you already have access to his introductions. – C8lin 4 years ago
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