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The Treason of Isengard by J.R.R. Tolkien
Published by Houghton Mifflin
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
For over a year, J.R.R. Tolkien's progress on the novel that would become The Lord of the Rings stalled stubbornly with the party in the depths of Moria, standing in front of Balin's tomb. When the dam broke and he finally knew where he wanted to take the story, he went back once again to the earlier parts and reworked them to agree with his new vision of the novel. Then he moved forward with a solid flow of new material, including the terrible battle with the Balrog, the flight through Lorien and the breaking of the Fellowship
This volume contains Tolkien's working papers from that period, as the significance and scope of the story rapidly expanded to include treachery among those who had been thought to be friends. Boromir, the doughty man of Gondor whose people have fought Sauron for generations, falls victim to the seductive power of the One Ring and tries to bully Frodo into giving it up. Saruman, who was sent from the Ancient West to rally humans against the Enemy, is instead setting himself up as a new Dark Lord.
But the battle is not always to the mighty, and simple strength does not necessarily guarantee victory. The development of this particular theme in this part of The Lord of the Rings is one of its particular strengths, and it is interesting to see how Tolkien went about developing it.
However, it is also interesting from a process perspective to see the many false starts, the fumbling theorizations and thinking on paper that was involved in the creation of this great masterpiece of fantasy. Even when Tolkien had a strong idea of the general thrust of the novel, he was often uncertain about the particular steps that would be involved in attaining the victories that needed to come about. This book, along with the others in the series, are an antidote to the notion that novelists simply sit down and write from beginning to end without any struggle, much as one might sit down and write a thank-you note or a letter.
Table of Contents
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Review posted November 16, 2000
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