Christopher Tolkien - Editorial Work On J. R. R. Tolkien's Manuscripts

Editorial Work On J. R. R. Tolkien's Manuscripts

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a great deal of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published in his lifetime. Although he had originally intended to publish The Silmarillion along with The Lord of the Rings, and parts of it were in a finished state, he died in 1973 with the project unfinished.

After his father's death, Christopher Tolkien embarked on organizing the masses of his father's notes, some of them written on odd scraps of paper a half-century earlier. Much of the material was handwritten; frequently a fair draft was written over a half-erased first draft, and names of characters routinely changed between the beginning and end of the same draft. Christopher Tolkien has admitted to having occasionally guessed at what his father had intended.

In the years following his father's death in 1973 Christopher Tolkien was able to produce an edition of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977; his assistant for part of this work was the young Guy Gavriel Kay, who would later become a noted fantasy author. Christopher Tolkien had to make some difficult editorial decisions in presenting his father's material, and both he and others have criticized some of these decisions. The Silmarillion was followed by Unfinished Tales in 1980 and The History of Middle-earth in twelve volumes between 1983 and 1996; between HME and UT most of the original source-texts from which the 1977 Silmarillion was constructed have been made public.

In April 2007 Christopher Tolkien published The Children of Húrin, whose story his father had brought to a relatively complete stage between 1951 and 1957 before abandoning it. This was one of J. R. R. Tolkien's earliest stories, its first version dating back to 1918; several versions of the story are published in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth. The Children of Húrin is a synthesis of these and other sources.

In January 2009 HarperCollins announced the forthcoming publication of another J. R. R. Tolkien work edited by Christopher Tolkien: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, a verse retelling of the Norse Völsung cycle. The work was published in May of the same year.

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