**Spengler wrote a pretty good review on Tolkien’s new book. Can’t wait to see it on a big screen.
In The Children of Hurin, a tragedy set some 6,000 years before the tales recounted in The Lord of the Rings, we see clearly why it was that Tolkien sought to give the English-speaking peoples a new pre-Christian mythology.
Tolkien left a pile of notebooks with drafts of all the stories. I think his son has tried to correlate the various drafts to provide a consistent story. From what I have seen of his work on the drafts, it is an arduous, but rewarding task.
Christopher Tolkien was designated by his father as literary executor. He organzed and edited the Silmarillion, the Lost Tales, and I think the Complete History of Middle-Earth, which is enormous and many-volumed.
I haven’t read the new one yet, but I will soon.**
I began reading Tolkien in the mid-1960’s when LOTR first appeared in the U.S.A. The sheer bulk of material that Christopher Tolkien later produced from his father’s papers forced me to give up in despair because I just couldn’t keep up with or afford the output. This new book (which I’ve just ordered through the Science Fiction Book Club) may get me restarted on Tolkien. The SFBC review certainly makes The Children of Hurin sound like a worthwile read.
Like brotherhrolf [above, post #6, April 24, 2007 8:40 pm], I don’t want to hijack this thread, but I have to make a sidestep and ask about “Spengler” (i.e., who is he/she and what is Spengler’s basic point of view?).
Nobody really knows who is Spengler, but he is a columnist for Asia Times. He has wrote lot of interesting articles about the West, Islam, Christianity, etc. Some say he’s a neo-con. Below is an excerpt for Children of Hurin:
Now, Spengler returns with a review of the “new” Tolkien book, “The Children of Hurin.” Excerpt:
With the reconstruction of the young Tolkien’s prehistory of Middle-earth, we discern a far broader purpose: to recast as tragedy the heroic myths of pre-Christian peoples, in which the tragic flaw is the pagan’s tribal identity. Tolkien saw his generation decimated, and his circle of friends exterminated, by the nationalist compulsions of World War I; he saw the cult of Siegfried replace the cult of Christ during World War II. His life’s work was to attack the pagan flaw at the foundation of the West.
Tolkien is a writer of greater theological depth than his Oxford colleague C S Lewis, in my judgment. Lewis is a felicitous writer and a diligent apologist, but mere allegory along the lines of the Narnia series can do no more than restate Christian doctrine; it cannot really expand our experience of it. Tolkien takes us to the dark frontier of a world that is not yet Christian, and therefore is tragic, but has the capacity to become Christian. It is the world of the Dark Ages, in which barbarians first encounter the light. It is not fantasy, but rather a distillation of the spiritual history of the West. Whereas C S Lewis tries to make us comfortable in what we already believe by dressing up the story as a children’s masquerade, Tolkien makes us profoundly uncomfortable. Our people, our culture, our language, our toehold upon this shifting and uncertain Earth are no more secure than those of a thousand extinct tribes of the Dark Ages; and a greater hope than that of the work of our hands and the hone of our swords must avail us.
C.S. Lewis wrote the Narnia books for children - so the comparison is between different things. It’s hard to see a ten-year old appreciating the Ainulindale, or the Book of Lost Tales; these are a long way removed from Bilbo & Smaug.
The more I read the Narnia books, the more I find in them - & if one mentions his other explicitly Christian works too, then a comparison between his Christian books, & Tolkien’s myth, becomes impossible: they are too dissimilar for comparison to be worthwhile. The insinuation that Lewis was superficial does not make sense; maybe those who say that, come to his books expecting him to be an Anglican Tolkien - if so, no wonder they are disappointed; they are expecting something Lewis doesn’t pretend to offer.
Both myths are full of excellent things, & I for am not going to honour one by disparaging the other; it’s not necessary