A NEW VISION FOR THE TOLKIEN ENCYCLOPEDIA
The Tolkien Encyclopedia is a growing, changing, developing entity. The last four months of work on the Encyclopedia have provided an opportunity for much thought and reflection about the scope and nature of the Encyclopedia. My idea for the Encyclopedia has expanded to include some elements I realize are necessary for ETEP to be a significant contribution to the body of Tolkien scholarship.
The Tolkien Encyclopedia is not merely a reference work which aims at answering questions of fact concerning the content of Middle-earth. This is certainly part of the larger whole, but it is not the whole project. In addition to this investigation of the content of Middle-earth, I would propose that two other purposes be considered for the Encyclopedia: first, a section for articles which treat TolkienÕs writing critically and which give a general consideration of TolkienÕs ideas, and second, a Tolkien Syntopicon.
An example of the first is Mr. HarveyÕs ÒOne Ring to Rule Them All.Ó Also, Donavan Hall is currently working on a critical analysis of TolkienÕs theory of fantasy which I hope will someday become part of this section of the Encyclopedia. I am very interested in enlarging this part of the Encyclopedia and would encourage potential contributors to consider critical projects of this nature.
The Tolkien Syntopicon is another vital part of a complete Encyclopedia. The idea is modeled upon Mortimer AdlerÕs Syntopicon for the Great Books series released by The Encyclopedia Britannica. A syntopicon is basically an index of topics, not topics like the ones found in the Encyclopedia of Middle-earth, but topics like free will, honor, fate, evil, good, etc. Each topical treatment would include a brief essay discussing the idea or concept in question and then it would conclude in a detailed index of passages from the Tolkien corpus which touch on the topic.
Thus my complete vision of the Encyclopedia involves three parts: (1) Critical Articles, (2) The Tolkien Syntopicon, and (3) The Encyclopedia of Middle-earth.
The construction of the Syntopicon will take much work and cooperation. Over the next month I will compile a list of topics for the Syntopicon and make it available on the web site. Please email me with topic suggestions; I cannot possibly think of everything. What I ask of you as readers of Tolkien is to keep the list of topics in mind while reading and if you run across a passage which is pertinent to a topic send me the reference. Eventually, we will collectively compile a Syntopicon. And, of course, I will add your name to the list of contributors to the Encyclopedia - I hope this list is long.