Footnote on Plotting, and Tolkien’s Method

In a post here on March 13, “Between a Plot and a Hard Place,” I talked of the two poles of plotting a novel – letting it unfold vs. planning everything in advance.  I said I had seen one of Tolkien’s letters indicating that he leaned toward the former approach, but I found confirmation yesterday, while reviewing his essay, “On Fairy Stories,” in the Tolkien Reader. In the author’s introduction, he says the essay was written in 1938 or 1939 and mentions he was working on The Lord of the Rings at the same time.  He says the story was:

…beginning to unroll itself and to unfold prospects of labour and exploration in yet unknown country as daunting to me as to the hobbits.  At about that time we had reached Bree, and I had then no more notion than they had of what had become of Gandalf or who Strider was; and I had begun to despair of surviving to find out.

The image that came to mind (thought it did not literally enter the story until later) was the light of Galadriel illuminating his way.  What do you do when you find yourself in the dark like that?

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