Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

November Books 15) The Treason of Isengard, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Next in line of the series of books exploring the process by which Tolkien created TLotR. The most interesting point for me was that Frodo and Sam's path to Mordor, and even back to the Shire, emerged in Tolkien's thinking much earlier than the story of the others after the death of Boromir. He seems to almost make up the tale of Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn as he goes along, and I must admit it's not the most satisfying part of the book (and was the most messed around with by Peter Jackson for the film). In the middle of this, however, the Treebeard chapter stands out as a coming together of long-simmering ideas for Tolkien, who was fascinated by trees and forests and had been dropping foreshadowing references to Treebeard into his drafts without really thinking them through.

Tolkien took great care over names. It's a bit jarring to read "Trotter" instead of "Strider", "Ingolf" instead of "Aragorn" and "Ondor" instead of "Gondor", but I think it's not just familiarity with the final product - the eventually chosen names are genuinely better. There are a very few exceptions - Tolkien was not happy with "Osgiliath", and I think rightly so, but didn't find a good alternative. Irish readers find it amusing that one of Treebeard's fellow elder Ents is named Finglas; this name is there in the very first draft.

I noted with interest that all the early examples of runes - basically Gandalf's messages left at Bree and scrawled at Weathertop - use the good old-fashioned futhark, rather than what we came to know as the Cirth. The switch was made while composing the inscription on Balin's tomb in Moria, and implemented consistently after that. The development of the runes shows off Tolkien's deep knowledge of phonetics; you would expect him to have some familiarity with the subject as a philologist, but clearly it was a profound fascination. (Do you pronounce the 'o's differently in 'Lord' and 'Moria'? I don't, but Tolkien evidently did, going by his first drafts.)

Anyway, much enjoying this reconstruction of how the classic came to be.

Edited to add: amusingly, two people have responded to disagree with me on the vowels in 'Lord' and 'Moria', one saying that the 'Moria' vowel is longer, the other that it is shorter!
Tags: bookblog 2011, writer: tolkien
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