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I found something I wrote a good while ago, as a satire, showing what Tolkien would have gone through if he had dealt with modern fantasy publishing. It's a series of letters to Tolkien from a fictitous modern editor.

Dear Professor Tolkien,

I don’t want to sound too critical, but I think the extended traverse through the Mines of Moria is a mistake. The story feels too claustrophobic here, and there’s little action. With the darkness, you loose the chance for detailed description of the surroundings, which has always been one of your strongest writing techniques. Unless you have a reason for this section, perhaps it could be shortened, or even eliminated?

I also think you’ve become inconsistent with Gandalf. He’s supposed to be your powerful wizard, yet he’s showing too much indecision and self-doubt. I don’t think he’d have a problem opening the Doors of Durin. Perhaps we could just skip Moria all-together and have him melt the snow on the Redhorn Pass using his staff? That could make a great effects scene, highlighting his magical power.

Once again, there’s a major problem with too much back story in the Council of Elrond. I think you need to compress most of this to keep the story moving. Otherwise, we have a chapter that’s nothing but talking heads. There’s also the continuing problem of too much poetry that won’t appeal to the readers. Please remove all of this in the next rewrite. In addition, I think there’s too many characters in the company of the ring. Can it be pared down to just Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam?

One final thing, our executive copy editor, Miss Black, has commented that you continually use the wrong plural of dwarfs and elfs. It’s dwarfs, not dwarves, and elfs, not elves. This was a problem we noticed in THE HOBBIT that we’d like to correct in the current book.

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

Got the latest chapters, thanks for your promptness. I can’t believe you killed Gandalf! He’s a major character, and seemingly the only strong connection with THE HOBBIT since you obviously don’t intend to use Bilbo more. I think this is a mistake. Let’s talk on the phone next week and discuss this more.

The fight with the Balrog was fantastic! I think with some paring down of the Moria journey, this will make for a highlight of the book. I noticed you didn’t have much description of the Balrog. Perhaps you could elaborate more? Isn’t the Balrog a type of dragon? That would make for a wonderful book cover!

I’m not sure about how you’re handling the paring down of the characters, however. I like removing most of the fellowship and setting up Frodo and Sam to be the main characters, but I think some folks will wonder what Aragorn and the others are doing. Perhaps you could mention them at some point? I like the transformation of the Black Riders into Nazgul. Those are dragons they’re riding now, correct? I’m glad to see my suggestions helped.

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

Ok, I’m confused. I thought we would be following Frodo and Sam as the main characters now? You’ve turned in several chapters and it’s all about Aragorn and company. While I mentioned it would be nice to find out what they’re up to, I didn’t mean for them to take over the book. Remember Frodo? Remember the Ring?

I’m glad you took my advice and have brought Gandalf back. That’s a good recover from a major mistake on your part.

I’m not clear on one of the details in the battle of Helm’s Deep. You talk about blasting powder out of Isengard. Is Saruman shelling the fortress from Isengard with artillery?

I liked the scene with the palantir. We just need more description of Sauron so the reader can visualize him better. Too much of these characters are becoming just standard characters out of fantasy. You need to tell us how they are different.

I also think a confusion may set in from the similarities of the names Saruman and Sauron. Saruman works well for the evil wizard, so perhaps another name for Sauron, something with more visual impact? How about Darkbane? That has a ring to it (sorry, pun only slightly intended).

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

Ok, I see we’re back on track with Frodo and Sam, even if you left us a big hanging with Pippin on the way to Minas Tirith. I liked the character of Faramir. He was a nice contrast to his evil brother Boromir. Perhaps you could bring out more of their childhood together and how Boromir treated him? Emphasize how Faramir was able to survive his bullying?

I think you need to put more in about how Smeagol/Gollum reacts to the dry air and heat, since he was originally an aquatic creature in HOBBIT.

The journey all the way through the Emyn Muil, Dead marshes, Ithilien, etc. takes a bit long. This should be speeded up some, since not much happens in this section until they meet Faramir. I think you should also use this section to bring out more characterization of Frodo and Sam and their relationship together. I hope you’re not going for any homoerotic type relationship, as this wouldn’t be appropriate for a mainstream fantasy. Please bear this in mind and make sure it’s obvious it’s just the platonic relationship between someone and his servant.

The last bit was quite good, and left me anxious to learn how Sam rescues Frodo. However, this brings me to my next concern: the length. In doing a page count, this book is getting unusually large, and you still haven’t gotten close to winding it up. I’ve noticed you’ve separated it into “books.” Perhaps we should consider actually publishing these as separate volumes. There’ four so far, so perhaps the story could be ended in the next one, making five? We could market it as a pentology then.

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

My office received the next packet from you while I was vacationing in Provence, so I’ve only just finished reading the new material.

I think moving back to Pippin and Gandalf throws off the flow of the book. First we’re following Aragorn, then Frodo, then to Gandalf and Pippin and Aragorn. It’s getting a bit confusing to remember what each person was doing last.

I really don’t see the reason for making Denethor go mad and try to murder Faramir. Denethor is supposed to be the wise old ruler of Gondor, and his actions just don’t fit this character type. Perhaps if Pippin, despairing of their cause, did it the action would make more sense.

The Battle of Pelennor Field is very exciting and nicely written, my compliments. It was moving prose worthy of Robert Jordan himself! You seem to be changing the description of the Nazgul’s mounts, however. Remember, they are supposed to be dragons. Perhaps they could attack the city while breathing fire?

I see the story still isn’t finished in book five, requiring another one to finish it I suppose. I understand your reluctance to to break it up into so many volumes, but we must consider the economics of publishing. Perhaps we could compromise with three volumes, each containing two books? That would mean you need to finish the story in book 6.

I’ve also been thinking about individual names, and for the series as a whole. THE LORD OF THE RINGS doesn’t work well as the name of a series. We’ve been considering calling it THE CHRONICLES OF THE RING, emphasizing the serial nature of the work. For individual volumes, we’re considering THE DRAGONRIDERS OF DARKBANE for the first one, since it deals with the persuit of the Black Riders. For volume two I thought FRODO AND THE MAGIC RING would be good, since it emphasizes Frodo as the central character, and the ring which ties it all together. Finally, for the last volume, I’d suggest RING’S FATE, since presumably the final fate of the ring will be told.

Please let me know what you think of my suggestions.

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

I’ve stayed up all weekend finishing your story, and it was very moving. You’ve told a wonderful story, for someone who’s still relatively new at novel writing and the genre of heroic fantasy.

I’m afraid the appendices are totally unnecessary and I suggest we drop them. They aren’t necessary for the story, and frankly, they read like history text. I don’t think this is something our readers will be interested in. I wish you’d told me of your intention of writing them so I could have saved you the time and trouble over them.

I’ve turned your manuscript over to our copy editor, Miss Black, who has worked hard on ironing out the problems. Please pay close attention to her correction of “dwarves” and “elves” along with her suggestions for trimming and rewriting of some key parts. As I indicated in an earlier letter, we’ll be changing the name of Sauron to Darkbane, and Miss Black has gone through and removed several superfluous characters that muddy up the story and elaborated on your descriptions of the dragons the Nazgul ride, and that appears as the Balrog. In addition, she has added more description for Darkbane in the palantir episode, and moved him to Mount Doom at the end for the final face-to-face confrontation with Frodo. I think Sam heroically slaying Gollum and Darkbane while Frodo casts the ring into the Cracks of Doom make for a much more exciting climax!.

I’m sorry you aren’t happy with the volume and series names I’ve suggested, but I’m afraid THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS, and THE WAR OF THE RING don’t work well, according to our marketing department. They are currently considering the necessity of the map you supplied, and whether to release the funds necessary for it.

I’m also including the pencil sketches of the cover art for the books. I’m afraid your watercolors just don’t have the dramatic punch necessary to get the reader’s attention in the bookstores. I particularly like the one of Gandalf slaying the dragon in Moria for the first volume.

Eudora Macalpin

Dear Professor Tolkien,

As you and your agent have demanded, we have removed Miss Macalpin as your editor. I’m sorry you found the relationship a difficult one to work with. I am taking over myself handling your work.

We’ve conceded to your demands to publish the manuscript as written. However, we still need to publish it in three volumes for cost reasons. I’m happy to use THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE TWO TOWERS for the first two volumes, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS for the overall title, but I feel that THE RETURN OF THE KING works best for the third volume and will publish it under that title.

The appendices will be published at the end of the third volume, with maps in all three. I suggest the detailed map of Gondor only go in the third book.

Please let me know if I can be of any other service to you.

Raynor Unwin
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April 2017


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