"Imaginatively" Middle-earth "is the actual Old World of this planet".

I wonder whether the Notion Club members lived on the same planet, Ages after the Elves vanished, and the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor collapsed. Did Tolkien ever suggest so in the Notion Club Papers?

Or Lowdham had only been dreaming of a parallel universe.

Apparently they never read J.R.R. Tolkien's "translations" from the Red Book, although in universe, the "translations" might not be as popular as the novels in the real world, or hadn't been made yet.


1 Answer 1


The stories that the Notion Club members see are events at different times in their own universe.

In-universe, The Notion Club met in Oxford in the 1980s and then their minutes landed in a sack of wastepaper in the basement, until they were uncovered and published in the 2010s.

The Club members witness a number of different events across different points of time. Some of these, like King Sheave and Saint Brendan, have historical basis. Others, like the Fall of Numenor or Ælfwine of England sailing to Tol Eressea, are completely made up by Tolkien.

These are the same set of stories that Tolkien was using for his previous unfinished time travel book, The Lost Road. (NCP is essentially a reboot of TLR)

The real world components are meant to be our world. The parts taken from Tolkien's legendarium are meant to be from his legendarium. None of the stories are ever implied to be a parallel universe, and there are explicit references throughout to the theme of things being at different points of time. The implication is that these are all in the same universe.

This is the straightforward way to read the text (or at least as much as there is a straightforward way to read NCP).

That said, the specific things that you refer to in your question, such as "Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor" and the red book of westmarch, would not have existed in the Notion Club Papers, because at the time that Tolkien wrote NCP he hadn't yet invented them.

  • I would add that the Red Book was the transmission theory mechanism Tolkien settled on for LotR, whereas the Lost Road was potentially going to be the mechanism for the transmission of the Mythology to the present, prior to writing LotR, but given the state of play in 1936/37, the Quenta at the time still retaining Eriol/Aelfwine (as I understand it) I couldn't say for sure. At the time of writing the NCP in the mid-40s I don't know what Tolkien was planning for the Silmarillion 'frame', if anything, but he clearly still wanted to publish it. Dec 8, 2022 at 1:23
  • @DavidRoberts - The Ælfwine transmission framework is explicitly in NCP.
    – ibid
    Dec 8, 2022 at 7:01
  • Thanks, I guess I need to reread it :-) Dec 8, 2022 at 11:04
  • @DavidRoberts Tolkien tried to make Allen & Unwin publish The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion at the same time, and when they balked, he pulled the plug on the whole project! He later relented; I think the Appendices were what he settled for.
    – Spencer
    Jan 7 at 20:23
  • @DavidRoberts Tolkien started writing the "Later Quenta" that appears in Morgoth's Ring around 1950-1951, after LoTR was essentially complete, so by this time, the in-story source of the Silmarillion is already Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish, so Bilbo seems to have supplanted Eriol/Ælfwine.
    – Spencer
    Jan 7 at 20:48

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