I have been re-reading the LotR and, it being a masterpiece and a huge work at the same time, I felt the need to ask for clarification about a rather specific issue. I got a good answer and accepted it.

Then, unable to drop the book after having completed it, I read the Appendices with greater attention: and I found out basically the answer to my question (see the update at the end of it). I don't know if this makes my question "general reference" and so: should the question be in some sense withdrawn? What should I do?

I decided to add an edit to the question because adding an answer seemed unfair towards the original (Already accepted) answerer.

UPDATE Following @keen's suggestion I have removed my update from my question and edited accordingly the answer, hoping to have been respectful of the original answerer. I also added a link to this meta discussion.

2 Answers 2


To comment on one piece of your question:

I don't know if this makes my question "general reference"

TL;DR: A book is NOT a "standard internet reference" so the answer is "NOT GR"

The official wording from GR is in this meta post by Jeff Atwood (sourced from his SE blog post):

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

You will note that there is no mention of "by reading the damn book" in there :)

As was discussed previously, merely having the information in the source material does NOT make a question "General Reference" (assuming that there are no other factors that make it GR, such as the info being in Wikipedia or IMDB).

The reasons for that vary, but 2 random reasons are:

  1. Most works have source material which is NOT searchable, and you can not expect humans to have 100% perfect memory, or require them to re-read and fully memorize every detail from a large book to be eligible to ask a question.

    This is especially true for works the size of LOTR with appendices :)

  2. There are a great plethora of questions on SFF whose answer 100% unquestionably is contained in the source material; and even more of them where the answer is contained in what I would realistically lump in together with the source material, such as author interviews, other books in the universe, etc...

  • 1
    3. Some editions of LOTR omit the appendices. So there are many people who have the book yet do not have access to the material in the appendices.
    – user56
    Sep 7, 2012 at 19:45
  • 1
    @Gilles -- This is very true. The set of the LOTR books I have do not have appendices. I just bought a cheap-o boxed set and they only have the stories. Sep 7, 2012 at 20:06
  • 4
    @Gilles I had never heard such a thing! I can't believe that the Tolkien estate allows such a shameful practice... :-(
    – Francesco
    Sep 7, 2012 at 20:26
  • 2
    @Slytherincess I'm sorry to hear that. Do yourself a favour and buy a complete edition! Appendices are really important.
    – Francesco
    Sep 7, 2012 at 20:27
  • @Francesco until they explode...
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Oct 3, 2012 at 0:39
  • @Pureferret that kind of appendices can arguably be even more important :-)
    – Francesco
    Oct 3, 2012 at 4:57

There are a couple of questions here, I'll first address the issue of "is it acceptable to ask a question that's later answered in the work itself?" Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer for this one. It's going to vary by the length of the work (e.g. 1 season and 1 movie of Firefly vs. the 10 seasons and 2 movies that make up The X-files). It'll also vary on the detail you're asking about, as major plot elements will be expected to be more common knowledge. Use your best judgement as to the importance and worth of the detail you're asking about.

My best suggestion is to be upfront in your question. If you're asking about a detail in a work you're going through, say so in the question and say how far you are. This way people who are answering can tailor their answer to your needs.

If you later on find the answer to your own question, and no one else has answered it, go ahead and self-answer this is encouraged. By self-answering, you're leaving a complete question and answer on the internet, which may help others in the future. If others have answered the question, but the answers aren't to your satisfaction, you can still post your answer. Alternatively, if one of those other answers is most of the way to a perfect answer, you can edit it to improve it. Don't feel bad about accepting your own answer, just try to ensure yours is the highest-quality answer.

Lastly, if you ask a question, which you later find the answer to, this is not a reason in and of itself for deleting/closing that question. The question may be one that others will have, so it's often more reasonable to leave it in place. Of course, the community has the ability to vote to close questions if they believe the question isn't one that fits here.

  • In this case I had already (re)read the whole book, and not everybody read the Appendices (which are full of minute details by their nature)... But I think that maybe I could try to edit the original answer to add the final detail. Let me see if I can find a respectful way for the content already provided.
    – Francesco
    Sep 7, 2012 at 17:05

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