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I know that Christopher Tolkien commented in the Book of Lost Tales, Part 1 that the reason the early version of the Ainulindale looks so much like the version in The Silmarillion is that

In this case only and in contrast to the development of the rest of the mythology there is a direct tradition, manuscript to manuscript, from the earliest draft to the final version.

Having only read parts of the other "History of Middle-Earth" volumes, I'm not sure whether we're ever given glimpses of any of those other manuscripts. Is that the case?

2 Answers 2

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1917-1920

  • Titled "The Music of the Ainur"
  • Presented as a story told over by Rúmil to Eriol.
  • This is the second tale in the Book of Lost Tales.
  • Exists in two versions, a pencil draft on loose sheets followed by an inked version in a notebook. The second version is given in HoMe#I - The Book of Lost Tales part 1, with some quotes of the first version in the commentary.

mid-1930s

  • Title of "Ainulindalë" is added.
  • Presented as a transcription or translation of a document written by Rúmil.
  • Story didn't change much, but there were extensive changes made to the wording, and a few additions were made to the text.
  • The story is now separated from the rest of the main narrative and becomes its own work.
  • Exists in two versions, a rough draft (A) and a fair copy (B). ("Ainulindalë" enters in the fair copy.) The fair copy is given in HoMe#V - The Lost Road and Other Writings, with some quotes of the first version in the commentary.

1946

  • labeled by Tolkien as the "Round World Version"
  • Ilúvatar only shows the valar a vision of what their music created, and the Valar enter to find the world unshaped instead of fully formed.
  • An account of the first conflicts between Melkor and the other Valar is added, previously found elsewhere.
  • The Sun exists from the beginning, and the moon is created by Morgoth.
  • Arda is now only one part of the creation
  • Exists in a manuscript draft (now lost apart from a single torn sheet), and a typescript (C*), some excerpts of which are given in HoMe#X - Morgoth's Ring.

1948-1951

  • Flat world version again, Sun not in existence from the beginning
  • Most of the 1946 wording retained
  • ‘written by Rúmil of Túna and was told to Ælfwine in Eressëa (as he records) by Pengoloð the Sage’
  • Exists as an extensive revision (C) made on top of and on the back of the 1930s fair copy (B), and as a careful illuminated manuscript (D) made from that which differs a bit towards the end. C is given in full in HoMe#X - Morgoth's Ring, followed by some excerpts from D.

For more information, see the three volumes of The History of Middle-earth cited above, and also see the entry for "Ainulindalë" in Hammond & Scull's JRR Tolkien: Companion and Guide, where the subheading "History" contains an overview of the writing history.

And for an even better overview, see "The Origins of the Ainulindalë: The Present State of Research" by Michaël Devaux in The Silmarillion: Thirty Years On.

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  • Also, at some point, "Melko" becomes "Melkor".
    – Spencer
    Jul 4, 2021 at 12:59
  • @Spencer - Yes, a lot of the nomenclature changed between versions.
    – ibid
    Jul 4, 2021 at 13:05
  • Have you seen John Garth's talk that was at the Art of the Manuscript exhibition? It was recorded, but seems to have been taken down. :-( He found that the first version of the Music of the Ainur was older than Tolkien remembered, by comparing actual paper stock (he was giving permission by the Estate to examine first the digitised, and then the actual holograph copy), and described this finding in his talk. I didn't make notes, unfortunately, because I didn't expect the video to go away! I can't recall the comparison document, but it was army-issue paper, so during his convalescence. Dec 24, 2022 at 7:32
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    @DavidRoberts - Garth also mentioned this before in his published papers "Ilu's Music: The Creation of Tolkien's Creation Myth" (Sub-creating Arda), and "The Chronology of Creation: How J.R.R. Tolkien Misremembered the Beginnings of his Mythology" (The Great Tales Never End). But I think the talk at the Haggerty was probably the best of the three. Based on Garth's research I should probably modify that "2018" date to "2017", but the rest of the answer still holds.
    – ibid
    Dec 24, 2022 at 23:59
  • Additional: Ainulindale B (1930s, HoME vol.5) is that last one to conform to the cosmology of the Ambarkanta (1930s, HoME vol.4). Because the world was presented to the Valar fully formed (globed within the void), it allowed Morgoth to fool the others with his stunning "pillars of ice for the Two Lamps" trick. Its removal is IMO a "grievous loss", together with the ensuing confusion of the precise cosmology of Ea (did the Valar build the whole universe, the solar system, or just "earth"?), and the mysterious movements in and out (of what) of Morgoth during his wars with the Valar.
    – m4r35n357
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:24
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Yes, it exists.

Early versions of the Ainulindale exist in HoME 1 and 5, with the final versions being discussed in 10. Unlike the Valaquenta (which was split off quite late) the Ainulindale existed as a separate work from an early stage, pre-LotR.

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    Perfect, that's just what I was looking for. I have HoME 1, from which I took the quote; but now I'll have to get the rest of the volumes. Jun 6, 2014 at 0:17

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