Since it’s Sunday and the blog traffic goes way way down, I thought I’d make it a quick one with a passage or two (about Isildur) from Tolkien’s own letters. Let’s go!
In late 1951, Tolkien was hopeful that the Collins publishing house would release the Silmarillion in conjunction with Lord of the Rings. To prove his case that both needed to be published together, Tolkien wrote a 10,000 word letter that summarized both. This, of course, included Isildur, though briefly.
By 1951, all but the very final revisions were complete with Lord of the Rings. You couldn’t quite say that the version we have now was what existed three years before its publication in 1954, but you wouldn’t be too horribly far off.
Picking up after describing the fall of Numenor, Tolkien describes the very end of the Second Age.
“The Second Age ends with the Last Alliance (of Elves and Men), and the great siege of Mordor. It ends with the overthrow of Sauron and the destruction of the second visible incarnation of evil. But at a cost, and with one disastrous mistake. Gilgalad and Elendil are slain in the act of slaying Sauron. Isildur, Elendil’s son, cuts the ring from Sauron’s hand, and his power departs, and his spirit flees into the shadows. But the evil begins to work. Isildur claims the Ring as his own, as ‘the Weregild of his father’, and refuses to cast it into the Fire nearby. He marches away, but is drowned in the Great River, and the Ring is lost, passing out of all knowledge. But it is not unmade, and the Dark Tower built with its aid still stands, empty but not destroyed. So ends the Second Age with the coming of the Numenorean realms and the passing of the last kingship of the High Elves.”
It’s interesting to see that Tolkien summarized the tale pretty much the same way that Elrond did in the Council of Elrond.
One interesting thing is that in this letter, Tolkien claims that the Dark Tower “still stands.” That doesn’t jive with the published version, where it was destroyed, except for the foundation.
I tried looking through the early drafts, but I can’t really find when the story changed because I can’t really find references to the Dark Tower standing or falling after the siege. I did, however, find a note written around August 1939 about how the story might end, Tolkien jotted: “When the Ring melts Dark Tower falls or is buried in ash.”
This isn’t really conclusive, but might mean that since Isildur didn’t melt the Ring, the Dark Tower didn’t fall (in this early version). All I know is that by the time of publication (1954), the story went: “His Ring was lost but not unmade. The Dark Tower was broke, but its foundations were not removed; for they were made with the power of the Ring, and while it remains they will endure.”
So that’s kind of interesting for a Sunday, no?
About the Photo
Ruins! But not the foundations! This is Pecos Ruins in New Mexico. Nifty!
- Day 122
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 611 (157 from Rivendell)
- 310 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,168 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 3, 3019 TA. (map)