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Sauron Defeated

With Sauron Defeated, Christopher Tolkien concludes his penetrating analysis of the evolution of The Lord of the Rings. Part One of Sauron Defeated treats the history of Book VI, detailing Frodo's journey into Mordor, arrival at Orodruin, and the destruction of the Ring; Aragorn's ascendance to the crown; the hobbits' return to the Shire; and Frodo's departure from Middle-earth. In addition, Christopher Tolkien presents for the first time an abandoned epilogue, along with a letter from King Elessar to Samwise.

Overall, the drafts of Book VI are not vastly dissimilar to the published chapters; however, there are a few differences worth noting. The details of the Ring's destruction, for instance, offer some alternative glimpses. Though Tolkien devised the essential plan for the scene at Sammath Naur as early as 1939, he contemplated having Sam sacrifice himself, pushing Gollum into the Cracks of Doom. He also pondered having Gollum repent; however, he discarded this as counter to the Ring's wholly corruptive power. Tolkien also considered staging a final face-to-face confrontation between Frodo and the Lord of the Nazgûl to bookend their previous encounter at Weathertop (obviously drafted before Tolkien conceived of his end at the hand of Éowyn).

Apart from numerous variations in names and dates, there are other, more salient divergences in the drafts of the closing chapters. For one, Gandalf accompanies the hobbits all the way to the Brandywine Bridge. For another, in The Scouring of the Shire, Frodo plays a more active, aggressive role in combating the ruffians and Saruman. And indeed, while sketching out the chapter, Tolkien vacillated over just who Sharkey was—whether the leader of the ruffians; or the "Boss", Lotho Sackville-Baggins; or finally, Saruman himself. During the chapter's development, these questions found their ultimate answers. Sharkey became the last embodiment of the petty and wasted Saruman, and Frodo receded to a more secondary role, making good his claim in The Land of Shadow that, "I do not think it will be my part to strike any blow again."

The history of Tolkien's magnum opus reaches its final dénouement with the hitherto unknown epilogue. Christopher Tolkien presents two versions, along with three drafts of Aragorn's letter to Sam. But apart from a sentimental peek at the Gamgees' home life, the epilogue failed to retain the mood of The Grey Havens, and Tolkien finally abandoned it. As he wrote to Naomi Mitchison in April 1954, "An epilogue giving a further glimpse … has been so universally condemned that I shall not insert it."

The remaining two parts of Sauron Defeated are concerned with an earlier overthrow of Sauron. Reaching far back into the Second Age, they deal with Sauron's corruption of Ar-Pharazôn and with the ensuing cataclysm that swallowed Númenor forever.

Part Two presents a new work, The Notion Club Papers, with which Tolkien distracted himself while writing The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien evidently began it in 1945-1946 while struggling with the transition from The Two Towers to The Return of the King; however, instead of the remote past, Tolkien set this new work many years in his own future. Yet at the same time, it taps into the Númenórean legend in quite a novel way.

The Notion Club Papers began as an avenue for Tolkien's ruminations on the works of his fellow Inklings, particularly Lewis, and caricatures of the Inklings and their meetings and mannerisms. Christopher Tolkien offers loose correlations between actual Inklings and the fictitious Notion Club members, but one should remember that these were very loose indeed, with traits often redistributed among the characters, or changed from draft to draft.

The work, insofar as it was developed, consists of two parts, following the form of secretarial reportage on successive meetings of the Club. In the first part, members of the Club argue about whether time and space travel is more or less believable in fiction than fairies and fantasy. In the second, discussion turns to the topic of true dreams—the notion that one can tap into the distant past (or future) through a kind of extraordinarily deep dreaming. As Tolkien expounded these ideas, the legend of Númenor continued to resurface until it essentially took over the narrative, dragging it away from simple caricature into more serious territory.

In the second part, two characters emerge as linked to this remote legend. Arundel Lowdham and Wilfrid Jeremy are revealed to be distant relatives and contemporary parallels of the pseudo-historical characters of Ælfwine and his companion, Tréowine, who themselves are descendents of the Númenóreans Elendil and Voronwë. And both pairs of companions experience a sort of echo of the events surrounding the Fall of Númenor-just as the narrative of The Notion Club Papers itself becomes an echo of another, earlier work, The Lost Road.

Part Three of Sauron Defeated presents additional variations on the Númenórean legend. First, Christopher Tolkien offers another version of "The Fall of Númenor," previously discussed in The Lost Road and Other Writings. Next, he introduces a parallel story, "The Drowning of Anadûnê," written contemporaneously with The Notion Club Papers. This story represents the Númenórean perspective, where "The Fall of Númenor" captured the elvish tradition of the same tale. It also contains striking departures from the legend's original conception, including confusion between Aman and Tol Eressëa and ambiguity between the Eldar and Valar. But rather than a lapse, such disparities between the mannish and elvish legends, and indeed between drafts of the same legend, are best construed as a deliberate statement about how such traditions evolve over time, wearing down to their essentials, the details eroding—in much the same way that words of ancient languages wear down and erode into present-day forms.

Which brings us to "Lowdham's Report on the Adunaic Language," which concerns the Númenórean language. Sadly incomplete, the essay goes little further than a description of phonology and morphology. Apart from noun declension, the grammar and syntax are, unfortunately, omitted. Even so, the essay reveals many Adunaic words and touches on the relationship between Adunaic, Avallonian (that is to say, Quenya), and Khazadian (Dwarvish).

Jason Fisher

Further Reading

Tolkien, J.R.R. Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: A Selection. Carpenter, Humphrey and Christopher Tolkien, Editors. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981.

---. The Lord of the Rings. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954-1955.

---. The Lost Road and Other Writings: Language and Legend before 'The Lord of the Rings'. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: Unwin Hyman, 1987.

---. The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

---. Sauron Defeated: The End of the Third Age: (The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four); The Notion Club Papers and The Drowning of Anadûnê. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992.

---. The Silmarillion. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977.

---. The Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

---. The War of the Ring: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Three. Tolkien, Christopher, Editor. London: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

See also Ælfwine; Eärendil; Saruman; Sauron; Lewis, C.S.; Inklings; Middle-earth: Men; Valar; Saint Brendan; Mordor; Tol Eressëa; History, Anglo-Saxon; Mythology for England; Sacrifice; Time Travel; Dreams; Fall of Man; The Lost Road; The Return of the Shadow; The War of the Ring; The Treason of Isengard; The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien; The Lord of the Rings; The Silmarillion; History of Middle-earth; Publications, Posthumous; Return of the King.

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