||I had a lot of trouble with this book.
Looking at how long it took for me to read it the first time, I would
say I had the same trouble then. Of course, back then I had just entered
university, and the workload was more than I expected.
This time around, I think I was simply
less interested. But I wonder if it was just the style. Most of this
book was the author pointing out passages that changed, which requires
an intimate knowledge of the Lord of the Rings, down to the sentences in
each chapter. It almost expects the reader to have reread the trilogy
just before reading this book.
The Return of the Shadow, the text was so different from what ended
up in The Fellowship of the Ring
that we got five versions of the initial chapters, which was
interesting, though it became repetitive.
The Treason of Isengard gave us less
of the initial text, and more author commentary, where he passes over
much of it, telling us simply that very little changed from one version
to the next.
Christopher Tolkien's reason for
writing these books was to chronicle the evolution of The Lord of the
Rings. His primary goal was the chronological evolution, followed by the
textual changes. So each chapter, while it might have been written at a
different time, gets several passes. Sometimes it flows so seamlessly
that I didn't even realize he had changed from manuscript A to B or
"fair". I think he could have given a better demarcation between
Regardless, my primary enjoyment of
this book was reading the various versions of the text, and the author's
commentary in pointing out where it had changed, or where it was
similar. But it really helps to have read the text immediately preceding
the commentary. Where he notes subsequent versions, he mostly mentions
simply the differences between the two, and infrequently gave the full
text. Of course, this would have added a couple more books to the series
with probably little value, and I don't see a different way of doing
this -but it doesn't mean I like it any more.
J.R.R. Tolkien's obsession at this
point in writing The Two Towers and
The Return of the King was of
chronology. He had tracked the days of the characters' journeys, and
found them to be inconsistent, so he was obsessed in finding the correct
number of days. I don't see why he simply couldn't have given an extra
day in some part of the journey that wasn't fully documented. Eventually
he did extend several journeys, not just the one that was missing a day!
This book gives the evolution of the
end of book III of The Two Towers, where the Palantir first emerges,
which was the most interesting part of the book. Most of Book IV of The
Two Towers had already been mapped out, so Frodo and Sam's meeting with
Gollum seemed to go on for a while longer than it should have. Although
the introduction of Faramir is shown to be sudden and radically altered
the structure of the book afterward, I didn't find that it had much of
an impact on me.
As opposed to my feelings toward The
Return of the King, the evolution of Book V did little for me here, but
it was insightful to see how much it became extended, when Tolkien
thought he had only a few chapters left after Gandalf and Pippin got to
Minas Tirith. Maybe it was because the chapters were already almost
fully formed, and so the author didn't really give much of the actual
text, beyond the rather dull assembly of the Rohirrim. Most of the
evolution took place in reordering the narrative events, like moving the
story of Aragorn's journey through the mountains from a retelling much
later to The Passing of the Grey Company, much earlier.
I can't say I liked this book as much
as its predecessors. Although the development of the Palantir, Faramir,
the shadow host, and Shelob were interesting, the story had so much
momentum at this point that it didn't need too much revision. Each
chapter reached nearly the final version by the second or third draft.
On the other hand, the single most interesting piece of information
given in this book was the fact that Tolkien stopped twice for a couple
of years at a time while writing this segment of the trilogy. Every time
he returned, he added a new vigour to it. And that says a lot about the
writing process itself, at least for an epic such as The Lord of the