The Last Inkling

The literary world owes a tremendous debt to Christopher Tolkien, who has remained faithful to his father’s vision to the very end:

In 1975, Christopher Tolkien left his fellowship at New College, Oxford, to edit his late father’s massive legendarium. The prospect was daunting. The 50-year-old medievalist found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Thousands of pages of notes and fragments and poems, some dating back more than six decades, were stuffed haphazardly into the boxes. Handwritten texts were hurriedly scrawled in pencil and annotated with a jumble of notes and corrections. One early story was drafted in a high school exercise book.

A large portion of the archive concerned the history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional world, Middle-earth. The notes contained a broader picture of a universe only hinted at in Tolkien’s two bestselling novels, The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). Tolkien had intended to bring that picture to light in a lengthy, solemn history going back to creation itself, but he died before completing a final, coherent version.

Christopher took it upon himself to edit that book, which was published in 1977 as The Silmarillion. He then turned to another project drawn from his father’s papers, then another—ultimately publishing poetry, academic works, fiction, and a 12-volume history of the creation of Middle-earth. The Fall of Gondolin, published in August, is the 25th posthumous book Christopher Tolkien has produced from his father’s archives.

Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.

I have little doubt that we will see Amazon proceed to finish the process of convergence and corruption that Peter Jackson started. But thanks to Christopher Tolkien, the original vision will survive in the one medium capable of surviving the passage of time, the written word.

UPDATE: Change that “little doubt” to “no doubt”.

Amazon’s big Middle-earth-set show based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien is slowly moving forward. During this week’s Television Critics Association press tour, the company says that it has brought on two writers, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, to write and develop the series. The two writers are relative newcomers: both worked on the original script for Star Trek: Beyond, were part of the writer’s room for Godzilla vs. Kong, and are writing the upcoming sequel to Star Trek: Beyond.

No wonder movies are so horrifically bad these days. Remember, this is an industry so infested with Dunning-Kruger syndrome that when they had one of the greatest American writers and one of the greatest English writers at their disposal, they didn’t bother to have either of them write a screenplay. Because what did F. Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse know about storytelling, right?


Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *