Mythmoot V: 02 - Tolkien’s Crossing of Revisionary Boundaries


Manage episode 256388051 series 2638790
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Tolkien’s Crossing of Revisionary Boundaries Chris Gavaler and Nathaniel Goldberg Some novelists revise their stories by restarting them. Others revise by revealing new things about them. Still others revise simply by continuing them. All of these kinds of revisions are common, but J.R.R. Tolkien crossed revisionary boundaries by engaging in all three simultaneously. In 1937 Tolkien published the first edition of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. In 1951 he restarted the story by publishing the second edition; among other changes, Tolkien replaced the initial account of Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum (in Chapter 5, “Riddles in the Dark”) with a darker version. In 1954 in The Lord of the Rings (in the Prologue and in Book 2, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond”) Tolkien revealed that the initial account was a “lie” and the darker version was “the true account” of what had actually happened. Also in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien continued the darker version from the 1951 edition of The Hobbit directly. Using Tolkien as our exemplar, we identify these three kinds of revisions—restarts, revelations, and continuations—as reboots, retcons, and sequels, and determine the necessary and sufficient condition for each kind of revision. We conclude that the 1951 editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stand in multiple revisionary relations to the 1937 edition. Tolkien crossed revisionary boundaries in his different works: sometimes even in the same ones. 

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