The Book That’s Not Supposed to Exist (Guest Post by Joanna Maciejewska)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


The Last Ringbearer

Whenever I watch Aragorn’s coronation scene in The Return of the King, with Eowyn standing in the crowd beside Faramir, I can’t resist thinking: “Poor Eowyn. A victim of the Elven conspiracy!” What an odd thought, you say? Not so much if you have read the book that changed my perception of the coronation scene.

I’m not a devoted Tolkien fan. Yes, I read it when I was young, but before him there were countless other books, including another pioneer writer, Robert E. Howard, and a Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (if you’ve heard of the Witcher video games, he’s the writer who wrote the books the games were based on), so The Lord of the Rings was just (I can almost hear you gasping!) another fantasy book, and I never fell in love with it. I could probably redeem myself by admitting I loved The Silmarilion much more, but that would likely be countered by the fact I enjoyed the Hobbit movies.

Anyway, I digress. My experience of the Aragorn’s coronation comes from the The Last Ringbearer by Kiryll Yeskov, as opposed to Tolkien.

The Last Ringbearer was fun. Even though it kept the major events that readers know from The Lord of the Rings intact, it depicted the war between Orcs and other races from an entirely different angle. The story focused on the quest to separate the Elven world from the magicless Middle Earth—a mission given to two soldiers from the destroyed Mordor army by a Nazgul, but the more interesting bits were in the background. For example, the poor Orcs were attacked for their attempts of bringing industrial progress and science to the Middle Earth, and their bad and cruel image was nothing more than Elven propaganda aiming to discredit their enemies.

I won’t recount the whole story, as it’s available on Wikipedia (or you might decide you want to read it yourself), but as you might have guessed, in The Last Ringbearer, it’s Eowyn who is Aragorn’s loved one, but he is stuck with Arwen due to Elven plots. In this reimagining of Middle Earth’s history, it’s not the happily ever after one could expect.

What’s even more interesting than the story in the book is… the book’s story.

Even though it’s been published in Russia, and then translated into several languages (including Polish which made it available for me), it’s considered copyright infringement by the Tolkien Estate, so has never been commercially translated or published in English.

I learned about the book’s rough path long after I’d read The Last Ringbearer, and it made me regret I hadn’t paid closer attention to reading this book (which I got from the library), and that I didn’t reread the original work along with it, to discover more interesting tidbits of the alternative story of Middle Earth. All I have left is the memory of the Elven conspiracy that always returns when I see poor Eowyn standing beside Faramir.

But now, after all those years, since my English is much better than when I was young, I might reach for the non-commercial translation available on the net, and once more explore all the details that had escaped me during my first read-through.

What about you? Would you read The Last Ringbearer if it was published in English? Maybe you stumbled upon its non-commercial English translation available online? What did you think of it? Or maybe you agree with Tolkien Estate’s stand on the derivative works and would rather not see this book around?

About the Author

I grew up in Poland, spent over 8 years in Ireland, and I’ve recently moved to Arizona. I have several short stories published in Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Science-Fiction Fantasy i Horror”, “Magazyn Fantastyczny”, “Esensja”) and anthologies (Fabryka Słów, Replika, Solaris).

Visit Joanna at http://melfka.com.

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15 thoughts on “The Book That’s Not Supposed to Exist (Guest Post by Joanna Maciejewska)

  1. The Hermit Librarian says:

    Since it’s not official and the Tolkein estate disavows it, would this be similar to if The Cursed Child were published by J.K. Rowling hadn’t given her permission?

    I think it sounds like an epic work of fan fiction, which is fine but I would separate it from canon events. I might read it someday, but it wouldn’t be high on my list.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It sounds rather like the “sequels” to Gone with the Wind, for instance. Maybe a fun exercise for the author in what could have happened and a fun way for readers to return to a story they love. But definitely not canonical, as you say since Tolkien did not sanction it (nor did his estate). Once the copyright ends we could theoretically have a slew of sequels, all of them suggesting different continuations of the series. Maybe like all the iterations of Sherlock Holmes we have now. But it’s very likely I would avoid them because I’ve already read too much poor fantasy clearly heavily inspired by Tolkien’s works. I love when authors try to rework stories and add their own spin, but imitations of another author aren’t going to cut it for me and I’d be wary of wading through all the books to find a really good sequel hidden among them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Hermit Librarian says:

        There’s been more than one Gone With the Wind sequel? I remember reading one called Scarlet (before I realized it wasn’t a real sequel – it was a long time ago).

        You’re right, though. Poor imitations can have a bad reflection upon the original work. It can sometimes spoil something you really enjoyed, so that would suck, especially with regards to the Lord of the Rings.

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        • Krysta says:

          I think Scarlett and Rhett Butler’s People are both sequels authorized by Mitchell’s estate, but there’s one called The Winds of Tara that infringed on the copyright and so was published in Australia. I was thinking of The Wind Done Gone, too, but it’s not technically a sequel, but a retelling from the slave’s perspective. I remember the estate tried to block publication but lost the legal fight.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Hermit Librarian says:

            I wonder if them losing had to do with the book becoming public domain? I’m not a lawyer in any sense of the world, but I wonder how that plays into the rights of a book, especially when there are members of the family still left.

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            • Krysta says:

              I think the Mitchell estate still has control over the works and they lost because the book was considered a parody by the courts. I assume they mean it’s commenting on the original work not that it’s meant to be funny. I haven’t read it so I don’t know a lot about it.

              Liked by 1 person

      • Melfka says:

        Yes, it could be looked as novel-length fanfiction. The only difference is that it’s been written in Russian, and since Russia’s copyright laws are not as strict as in other places in the world, the book was actually published (with a traditional publisher) and did well in Russia. It was also translated into several European languages and published in their respective countries.
        It’s only not available in English due to Tolkien Estate’s efforts.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. saraletourneau says:

    Huh. I’d never heard of The Last Ringbearer before this post. (Btw, good job, Joanna, and nice to see you taking part in the Reading Event!) I don’t think I’d be opposed to reading it, especially to see its similarities and differences from Lord of the Rings. But it wouldn’t be a high priority, just because there are already so many books I’ve yet to read…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nandini Bharadwaj says:

    Oh, an interesting perspective I’d never heard about. I’m all about Orcs being maligned by Elvish conspiracy. 😂 If I’m in mood for LotR fanfiction, I think I’ll pick this one up. But I’m a very moody reader, so I can’t really say. But this post did open up a new line of questioning in my head about the canonical works. Thanks for all the information! 🙂

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