Fictional Canon For Middle-earth
As a result of the manner of its creation, the secondary world of Middle-earth is complicated. Its creator developed various elements of his fiction over the course of decades, making substantial changes including the abandonment of major themes, facts and entire tales, and undertook wholesale rewrites and revisions of otherwise 'complete' narratives. The author's opinions on the relationships of his texts to each other often changed. In his letters, Tolkien comments upon the intertextual relationships of his works:
"I am doubtful myself about the undertaking . Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed."
The quest by some readers for a consistent fictional canon within some subset of Tolkien's writings was noted by Verlyn Flieger. Since the degree of narrative consistency that might be expected from a series of novels is not always found in Tolkien's work, Flieger attributed the need on the part of some readers to find consistency within the stories to the sense of reality that Tolkien strove to instil in his work, although the search for a definitive fictional canon has been seen as ultimately irrelevant to appreciation of his tales.
The desire for a Middle-earth canon arises from the need of some readers to form an internal consistency between the stories, a need related to their "willing suspension of disbelief". Tolkien, in his essay "On Fairy Stories", claimed that no individual fantasy story can be successful without maintaining an "inner consistency of reality". An author, he says:
"... makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true': it accords with the laws of that world. ... The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed."
W.H. Auden, former student of Tolkien, supports this notion in his review of one of Tolkien's books:
"Of any imaginary world the reader demands that it seem real, and the standard of realism demanded today is much stricter than in the time, say, of Malory."
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