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The War of the Jewels by J.R.R. Tolkien
Published by Houghton Mifflin
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
This volume is a continuation of the materials presented in Morgoth's Ring, that is, J.R.R. Tolkien's writings related to the Elder Days subsequent to his completion of The Lord of the Rings. While the previous volume covered those writings that dealt with Valinor, this one deals with the returning Noldor in Beleriand.
The first part is devoted to the "Grey Annals," the final realization of the tradition in the form of chronicles. By this time it had expanded from the original brief chronology to a narrative in its own right, parallel to the "Quenta Silmarillion. Sadly, like so much of Tolkien's work, it was never completed. As he reached the story of Turin, he abandoned it and never again returned to it.
The later part of the "Quenta Silmarillion" is also presented here, but due to its length, not in its entirety. Rather, Christopher Tolkien only comments upon the changes which his father made from the earlier version of the "Quenta Silmarillion" that was presented in the fifth volume, The Lost Road.
Following that are a number of narrative works from this period, almost all of them sadly incomplete. "The Wanderings of Hurin" deal with the actions of Hurin after the death of Turin and his sister/wife, Neinor/Ninel. At this time Tolkien was still hesitating between the older notion of Hurin joining up with a group of outlaws and bringing a large portion of the dragon's treasure in Narogothrond to Thingol, and the later idea that Hurin alone came to Thingol, bearing the Nauglafring and nothing else.
The story of Aelfwine and Dirhavel relates to Tolkien's continuing struggle to find a suitable framing device to present the tales of the First Age and mediate them to the modern reader. "Maeglin" is an exploration of the character of this unhappy figure in the history of Gondolin. "Of the Ents and the Eagles" reflects Tolkien's continuing strugle both to reconcile the tales of the Elder Days with that of The Lord of the Rings, and to reconcile the intensely primitive nature of the stories with some form of believable theological and cosmological framework. "The Tale of Years" is a straight chronology which seems to have co-existed with the ever-expanding form of the Annals.
Finally, students of Tolkien's constructed languages will enjoy "Quendi and Eldar," a set of etymological discussions on those words that relate to the various divisions of the elves and other Incarnates: Men, Dwarves and Orcs. It begins with a discussion of the linguistic elements and their developments in the various languages, then moves to a discussion of each language's development of the various roots. There is also a discussion of the language of the Valar and the way in which it affected that of the Elves, particularly their names for various persons, places and things in Valinor. Finally, there is a rather amusing elvish myth, of the original elves to awaken and how they became divided into three kindreds. This is feigned to explain the development of numbers and counting in the elvish languages.
Table of Contents
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Review posted October 26, 2000
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