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Discussion about the Prologue [Feb. 5th, 2008|04:43 pm]
LOTR Community Reading Group

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[dreamflower02]
A few of the folks over at the Yahoo! group have started discussing the Prologue. I got their permission to cross-post to LiveJournal.

This post was from Kathy/Inkling

Before we plunge into Chapter One, is anyone interested in chatting
about the Prologue?

As a writer primarily of Hobbit fanfic, I find it a rich source of
information. And, while not as humorous as Chapter 1, it has a few
lines that make me grin...

I just love this:
"...they liked to have books filled with things that they already
knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions."

And this is very hobbity, though no doubt true of any rural people:
"Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time."

But most of all, the Prologue makes me wonder about some things...

Who is the narrator of the Prologue? Is it Tolkien, placing himself
inside the story frame, or is it some other Man who has come by a
copy of the Red Book of Westmarch? The Thain's Book in Minas Tirith,
or a later copy of it, would provide a plausible explanation for
that. The only thing that's clear is that it is a Big Person, and
that many ages have passed since the time of the story. But just how
many, and whether it is now our present age, isn't clear.

This leads to the second question I've long puzzled over: who is the
author of LOTR? I mean within the story frame, of course...the fact
that the book ("this History")is referred to in the Prologue puts
its "author" inside the frame. We know that Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam
are the authors of the Red Book, but is LOTR literally meant to be
that book? I know many fanfics are based on that assumption, but I'm
not so sure. Could the narrator of the Prologue also be the author
of LOTR, drawing on the Red Book as source material? I'm leaning
toward this latter theory, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the Prologue says that ["The Hobbit"] "was derived from
the first chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself" and
that "This account of the end of the Third Age is drawn mainly from
the Red Book of Westmarch." To me this implies that someone other
than the Hobbit authors is doing the deriving and drawing...and so,
perhaps, editing/revising as well.

A second and even more tantalizing clue can be found in "Unfinished
Tales." This volume of HoMe contains "The Quest for Erebor,"
including a passage that is extraordinary in that it is written from
Frodo's first-person POV...the only instance of this anywhere in
Tolkien's writings (except for the poem "The Sea Bell"). It suggests
to me that the original Red Book was written in the style of first-
person memoir...and that the third-person narrative of LOTR was
penned by a later writer. This would account for the fact that while
Sam is supposed to have written the final part of the Red Book, the
last chapters of LOTR are not written in a style different than the
rest.

Kathy/Inkling

And this post in response from Chris.

I never really thought about who the narrator of the prologue and the books really is. The prologue is written by a big person, at least that is the impression I got when reading it. About the books I'm not so sure.

The prologue gives lots of information about hobbits, which I found tedious when reading the books the first time. If you are not a writer, you ask yourself why do I need to know all this stuff? Most of it doesn't really have any impact on the main story, except for the part of the Finding of the Ring. When I first read the books, I hadn't read The Hobbit (and I read it only once). That part was useful information.

Chris
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: dreamflower02
2008-02-05 11:03 pm (UTC)
Before we plunge into Chapter One, is anyone interested in chatting
about the Prologue?


Oh yes!

As a writer primarily of Hobbit fanfic, I find it a rich source of
information. And, while not as humorous as Chapter 1, it has a few lines that mak0e me grin...
I just love this:
"...they liked to have books filled with things that they already
knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions."
And this is very hobbity, though no doubt true of any rural people:
"Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time."


When a race eats 6 or 7 meals a day, food takes on a very high priority! I've always felt that with hobbit metabolism, and the fact that hobbits don't have a religion, that food would take on a central significance to their lives!

But most of all, the Prologue makes me wonder about some things...Who is the narrator of the Prologue?

Well, I think we are meant to believe that JRRT himself is the narrator, having translated the sources of the Red Book. I wonder if perhaps he imagined that it could have come to him through AElfwine of the Book of Lost Tales?

This leads to the second question I've long puzzled over: who is the author of LOTR? I mean within the story frame, of course...the fact that the book ("this History")is referred to in the Prologue puts its "author" inside the frame. We know that Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam are the authors of the Red Book, but is LOTR literally meant to be
that book? I know many fanfics are based on that assumption, but I'm not so sure.</i> .

Well, I've always felt that story-internally, the "author" is the narrator, but drawing from his "translations" of the Red Book. I think that we are meant to take that much, though not all, of it as having been written by Bilbo, Frodo and Sam and then translated, with the translator perhaps including other material as well.


First of all, the Prologue says that ["The Hobbit"] "was derived from the first chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself" (snip) To me this implies that someone other than the Hobbit authors is doing the deriving...

That makes sense; neither TH or LotR are written in first person, so it is obviously being filtered through another source.

About the snippets we see in "Unfinished Tales"--I agree. Also, don't forget that Meriadoc was supposed to have compiled the Tale of Years!

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