Book Review: Sauron Defeated

Sauron Defeated (The History Of The Lord Of The Rings Part Four), by J.R.R. Tolkien

If previous volumes of this series that I have read have been odd metafictional experiences by which one sees some of the manuscript editing that takes one away from the stories themselves and examines how it was that Tolkien gradually conceived of his story and put it together piece by piece, this one ups the ante considerably.  And if you are a fan of Tolkien’s writing, this is something that makes sense to enjoy, because Tolkien was so detailed about linguistics and geography and the larger world in which the story is a part that it makes sense that many of those who would find his stories compelling are going to find this book compelling as well, even if it includes a metafictional experience that gives a big of mixed prophecy on the literary world in which Tolkien was a part.  Rather than simplifying the experience of Lord of the Rings, this book complicates it even beyond the levels that it had previously been complicated with thanks to the previous writings of the series.  If you like very complicated inside jokes that point to the Lord of the Rings in Tolkien’s other writings, this book will be a special pleasure, if an unusual one.

This particular book, like its predecessors, is more than 400 pages in length.  That said, only about the first third of the book or so is made up of material from the Lord of the Rings directly.  This is the first part of the book, which discusses the end of the third age, showing the story of Sam and Frodo in Mordor (1), the tower of Kirith Ungol (2), the land of shadow (3), Mount Doom (4), the field of Kormallen (5), the steward and the king (6), many partings (7), the homeward trip of the hobbits (8), an interesting variant on the scouring of the shire (9), the Gray Havens (10), and an epilogue that had Sam talking to one of his daughters that was unfortunately removed from the final book (XI), as well as some drawings.  The second part of the book, which makes up a majority of the contents, are the two parts of the Notion Club papers as well as some major divergences between the earlier versions of the second part of the story, which have their own interesting textual history.  Finally, the book ends with the third version of the Fall of Numenor as well as three forms of the Drowning of Anadune as well as a theory of the work and a humorous metafictional report on the work.

What is perhaps most enjoyable about this particular book is the way that it provides the reader with the chance to see Tolkien’s Notion Club Papers, which are among the most intriguing metafictional works that can be imagined.  Tolkien not only wrote stories that are connected to deeper myths, and not only does this work provide a manuscript history of how The Lord of the Rings came to be, which is all very interesting itself, but this book also manages to show that Tolkien could imagine his work and the work of his friends like C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams being only of interest to fans of obscure fantasy literature in the same way that he and his friends were similarly passionately interested in obscure fantasy literature from the past themselves and inspired by it.  This allows Tolkien to jokingly write about a future where people sat around and talked about his own linguistic games in the Lord of the Rings, something that people actually do and something that this book is a sign of, which ought to remind us that Tolkien would likely have been amused or gratified at the way his work and that of C.S. Lewis has lasted far longer than he might ever have expected it to.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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