After the end of “The Lord of the Rings” – probably for nerds only
I’ve finished rereading “The Lord of the Rings,” an activity I separated into four distinct chunks. It was as always a very pleasant experience. I was pleased to note that the blowing of the horns of Rohan outside Minas Tirith retains its power to thrill on the umpteenth read. I felt more sympathy this time for Denethor, whom I actually think is treated by Gandalf quite badly. If you remember that the line of the Stewards had ruled Gondor quite competently for a thousand years, his resentment of Aragorn (“this Ranger from the north”) becomes quite natural.
The fourth chunk of my reading was, as you may have discerned, the Appendices (most of them), from which I relearned about the thousand years and many other things.
Now I’m not an absolute Tolkien nerd. I cannot converse in Elvish (although I know that Namarie is Farewell), and I have no intention of ploughing through the seven or eight volumes of back-story-and-explanation put together by Christopher Tolkien under the general title “The History of Middle-earth.”
But I do love the Appendices. I believe all editions of LOTR have at least one: “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” (which is part five of part one of Appendix A…) but one-volume editions understandably don’t have all of them.
Nobody has to read them.
But it’s from the six Appendices, which total about 150 pages in my edition, that you learn, if you want to, exactly what Aragorn’s claim was to the throne of Gondor; who prophesied that the Lord of the Nazgul wouldn’t be killed by a man; how Legolas’ father contributed to the War of the Ring; and how Gimli was related to Fili and Kili. And it’s from the Appendices that the makers of the films learned how to pronounce Cirith Ungol and Sauron.
This time with a determined effort I managed to restrain myself from rereading the whole lot.
Appendix A is Annals of Kings and Rulers. Here you get brief potted histories of the lost island kingdom of Numenor, of Gondor, of the northern land of Arnor, of Rohan (who was Helm of Helm’s Deep?) and of the Dwarves. On this reading I noticed for the first time the similarity of the fall of Numenor to Genesis chapter 3.
The makers of the “Hobbit” films used Appendix A (3) to provide dwarvish backstory, transferring Dain’s heroic actions to Thorin. Anyone who reads Appendix A and B surely feels with me that Dain Ironfoot is the most awesome dwarf king of them all, and on this reading it occurred to me to compare him to Isildur – Dain knows better than to re-colonise Moria after his victory, but Isildur does not know better than to keep the Ring after his.
Appendix A also tells you how Aragorn and Arwen are related. (Did you know that Galadriel is Elrond’s mother-in-law? This made me laugh when I first realised.)
To be fair, on this reading maybe there was a bit more than I needed about the complicated political history and wars of Gondor – but on the other hand it shows you Gondor as a real (real-ish) country with internal power struggles and imperial ambitions. You may feel sorry for the people of Umbar and Harad. And oh boy I got tired of the expression “lesser men.”
Appendix B is the Tale of Years. LOTR takes place in the Third Age of Middle-earth… What was happening in the Second Age? (Numenor and the forging of the Rings, mainly.)
Reading LOTR back in the Seventies, I was excited to learn that the North Kingdom collapsed in Third Age 1974. If I live long enough, I hope I’ll note the murder of the last King of Gondor pre-Aragorn in 2050. (After 2050 came the Ruling Stewards; Aragorn was crowned in 3019.)
But we also get day-by-day accounts of the main events of the book; for example:
2nd March 3019 : Frodo comes to the end of the Marshes. Gandalf comes to Edoras and heals Theoden. The Rohirrim ride west against Saruman. Second Battle of Fords of Isen. Erkenbrand defeated. Entmoot ends in afternoon. The Ents march on Isengard and reach it at night.
And Appendix B takes you on further – to Frodo’s return to Bag End (3rd November) and later events such as Meriadoc (“called the Magnificent”) becoming Master of Buckland, Sam’s daughter Goldilocks marrying Pippin’s son Faramir, and eventually the death of Aragorn in 120 Fourth Age, which was 1541 Shire Reckoning.
Appendix C is family trees of hobbits: how exactly were Bilbo, Frodo, Merry and Pippin related to each other, and how many children did Sam have? (Answer: 13. Rosie must have been pretty tough.)
Appendices D and E are the ones I skipped this time, but for some they will be of interest – D tells how the different races calculated dates and years (including the above Shire Reckoning), and what were the annual celebrations. E is lettering: scripts and runes (and who devised them) and pronunciation.
Appendix F is about languages and how Tolkien approached his supposed role as “translator” of the Red Book of Westmarch. If you didn’t know that the text of LOTR contains poetry in not one but two separate but related Elvish languages, Sindarin and Quenya, Appendix F will tell you.
As I say, I’m not a Tolkien nerd First Class, but maybe I qualify for Second Class?
The completeness of the vision never ceases to amaze.
The very existence of the Appendices, regardless of their content, helps create the illusion of reality. For example:
The story of “The Lord of the Rings” ends with the words “’Well, I’m back,’ he said.” (“He” is Sam.)
This is the end of a novel, and the film follows it exactly.
The last sentence of Appendix A (1) (v) (“Aragorn and Arwen”) is “Here ends this tale, as it has come to us from the South; and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old.”
This is the end of an ancient tale.
But if you look at the very end, the final notes of Appendix F, you find this gloriously obscure sentence: “Only a very bold hobbit would have ventured to call the Master of Buckland Braldagama in his hearing.”
That’s the end of the Notes to a work of reference…
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS Fili and Kili were Gimli’s fourth cousins. Does Matthew Perry remember stumping me with that Tolkien Trivia question about forty years ago?