When Christopher
Tolkien edited a vast amount of his father’s manuscripts for publication in The History of Middle-earth series, he omitted
certain texts due to constraints of space and editorial discretion. Generally
speaking, these texts are either theological/philosophical or linguistic in nature,
and were thus perceived to be of little or no interest to the general reader
(see, for example, The War of the Jewels,
XI:359). Much of this omitted material, however, have since appeared in specialised
publications (most notably in issues of Vinyar
Tengwar
and Parma Eldalamberon),
and the most recently published material appears in the French volume La Feullie de la Compagnie N° 3,* released
on 3 December 2014. This material consists of three sets of formerly
unpublished or partially published manuscripts by Tolkien, presented here under
the collective title Fragments on Elvish
Reincarnation
. The manuscripts, appearing both in English and a French
translation, have been edited by Michaël Devaux, with the assistance of
Christopher Tolkien and Carl F. Hostetter.

My intention here is not to offer an analysis of the meaning
or importance of these texts; it is rather to present a brief description of Tolkien’s
writings, and its associated editorial matter, in La Feullie de la Compagnie 3. Information in English about this new material is still sparse, and hopefully
this summary could be of use when pondering whether or not to acquire a copy of the book.

Editorial introduction

Deveaux has composed
an ambitious introduction, covering some 70 pages, to the Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation. The introduction consists of: (1)
a general introduction to the material; (2) a detailed description of the
manuscripts; (3) an analysis of the literary styles found in these writings and
an “in-universe” analysis of the ideas found in the manuscripts; (4) a section
containing both a glossary of Elvish terms appearing in the manuscripts, supplied
by Carl Hostetter, and some notes specific to the French translation of certain
terms; (5) a discussion of the ideas found in the manuscripts, with references
to (real-world) philosophy, theology, geography, and general natural science.

In my opinion it is
quite a drawback that the editor has chosen not to include an English translation
of this introductory material (even Hostetter’s contribution, originally in
English, appears only in French). Firstly, acquiring a copy of La Feullie de la Compagnie 3 is, as of
now (and perhaps indefinitely?), the only way to access this new and quite
substantial primary material by Tolkien, and non-French readers are much at a
loss by not being able to consult the introduction. Secondly, with English
being the lingua franca of Tolkien
studies, it complicates the possibility of critical scholarship on these texts.
And thirdly, relying on my somewhat rusty French, it is evident that Deveaux is
a scrupulous Tolkien scholar and keen commentator, whose thoughts on the matter
deserve to reach a wider audience.

Tolkien’s manuscripts

After the editorial
introduction follow transcriptions of Tolkien’s manuscripts in a bilingual
edition (presented side-by-side on opposite pages).†

I. The Converse of Manwë with Eru (ca.
1959)

In his Appendix to Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (published
in Morgoth’s Ring, volume X in The History of Middle-earth),
Christopher Tolkien noted the existence of “a text entitled The Converse of Manwë and Eru”,
consisting of three manuscripts: “This work was planned as two-fold … and a
second, more ample version of the ‘Converse’, was given up” (X:361). In Morgoth’s Ring, only the “original
shorter recension” (ibid.) of the
Converse appeared, reprinted here as manuscript A, The Converse of Manwë and Eru, together with two amendments (ca. 2
pages)‡. Manuscript B, The Converse of Manwë
with Eru concerning the death of the Elves and how it might be redressed; with
the comments of the Eldar added
(ca. 14 pages), is the second
part of the two-fold work, described by Christopher as “an elaborate philosophical
discussion” (ibid.). And finally,
manuscript C, Beginning of a revised & expanded version of ‘The Converse’ (ca.
4 pages), is the abandoned, “more ample” version of manuscript A.

II. Re-incarnation of Elves. The Númenórean
Catastrophe & End of ‘Physical’ Arda
(ca. 1959 – spring 1966)

The second set of texts,
also noted in the Appendix to Athrabeth,
is described by Christopher as a “hastily written manuscript on small slips of
paper, entitled ‘Reincarnation of Elves’ (X:363). The first section, Re-incarnation of Elves, amounts to ca.
6 pages, and The Númenórean Catastrophe
& End of ‘Physical’ Arda
covers ca. 2 pages.

III. Some notes on ‘rebirth’, reincarnation by
restoration among Elves. With a note on the Dwarves.
(1972)

Among the “brief or
fragmentary writings closely associated with [the Glorfindel manuscripts]” (The
Peoples of Middle-arth
, volume XII: 377), Christopher notes “a discussion
of the question of Elvish reincarnation” (XII:382), existing in two versions. In
The Peoples of Middle-earth, only the
first version of the writing, and parts of second version of the final note
on Dwarves, is given, while here appears the second version in its entirety (ca.
3 pages).

Notes

* It should be noted that the volume is an anthology (it has 502 pages in total), also containing articles in French about Tolkien and his works, some illustrations, and a bibliography of French Tolkien-related publications.

† A facsimile version of two manuscripts pages is reproduced at the very end of the section on Fragments on Elvish Reincarnation.

‡ Here, and below, the page numbers refer to the extent of only the English material, as it appears in La Feullie de la Compagnie 3 (it has a somewhat larger typesetting than employed in The History of Middle-earth). The page numbers are included to give readers an idea of the length of the primary material.