Lines in the Sand

by DoctorGamgee

Lines in the sand . . . .  I have read with some great interest the debate about Denethor, apendicies, and the notion that one must (As Varda suggests) "Draw the line somewhere" and that these appendicies "cannot be given parity with the published work in the story."

I suppose my first question is, "Who draws the line?" Do we not all draw our own? I am happy to go along with not giving them parity. All we need do is remove Arwen from the movies except for the last scene. According to Tolkien, she is not seen in Rivendell, nor does she come to Aragorn in a dream. She shows up after he has won, and is only mentioned in the book in a handfull of pages. I was not a fan of her in the film, so I tend to side with you on this point.

But then I am left with questions that I find troublesome to answer. For example: Who are the wizards? (I hear the word Istari, but that is not in the LOTR index). If we are to hold by this line in the sand, then the question becomes unanswerable. Afterall, the Silmarillion states in its foreword that it was "published four years after the death of its author . . . " and thus cannot be given parity either. JRR didn't sanction it, so it doesn't count, right?

And yet, I am drawn to the text at the beginning of the book entitled "Note on the Text" by Douglas A. Anderson (1993) whose opening line states:

The Lord of the Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy, when it is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendecies, sometimes published in three volumes.

It speaks some great truths, but it too was published after the death of Tolkien, so must be weighed against it due to its nature as a posthumous addition. However, Tolkien himself in his 'Foreword to the second edition' (which was written by the author) states:

The Lord of the Rings is now issued in a new edition, and the opportunity has been taken of revising it. A number of errors and inconsistencies that still remained in the text have been corrected, and an attempt has been made to provide information on a few points which attentive readers have raised.

We must assume that when he makes changes, he intended them to recognized. And, he further suggests that he could have answered more questions that were raised, but that it would require additional appendicies or another volume to answer (especially the ones dealing with linguistics). So if he was unwilling to add to the appendicies, then one must accept that he did intend them to be read (why else publish them?), and that those things therein were important enough to acknowledge, whereas others were not.

This, of course, leads us to the central question that we are all faced with, and to which we must find an answer: What is the purpose of the appendicies?

The answer to this question, I believe, holds the answer to the first question. For when one decides "Why" they are there, it will color the placement of the line.

If, for example, they are only there to answer questions raised by readers, then they don't really have great relevance, and are merely side notes to the story which indeed would keep them from having parity.

However, if they are seen as important parts of the character's backstory, but are not particularly relevant to the quest of the fellowship (as, for example, the history of Denethor before the Ring was left to Frodo) and thus were relegated to the appendicies because they didn't fit the story's narrative, then they should be given more weight.

And, we must also acknowledge that even when these questions are answered, there will still be room for interpretation, as each reader adds to the story what they bring into it. I would be saddened indeed to hear that someone who had read the books over and over throughout their lives still had the same travel at age 40 that they had at age 15. For as we gain experience and grow in our own lives, the story evolves and deepens. It is my belief that this is the reason that LOTR has remained a classic and vital piece of literature: It is deep enough to weather the changes in the readers lives so that when it is reread, it is not perceived as the same story -- it shows new facets of the readers experiences.

For if you look at the story, and wonder who the 'Hero' is, your answer can change over time. Some will say 'Frodo' others 'Sam' or one of the other members of the Fellowship. A few brave ones will even claim it is 'Gollum.' And yet, the true hero -- the one responsible for the destruction of the Ring, is the Ring itself. Frodo succumbs to it and is mastered. Gollum is so enthralled with it that he has become nothing but a tool. Only the Ring remains true to its intent and uses its willing tools to return to the fire, for it knows it is a physical representation of ultimate power, and having been held by Sauron to do his work for evil, it knows that the only way to insure it will not be used again, is to find a way to destroy itself, which it does. ;-0)