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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overview of The History of Middle-earth Series
Collections of an author's work are often confusing, particularly when what the author has created is as complex as Tolkien's writings. Here's an overview of the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth, which was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. Hopefully, it will help you select which book or books to buy.

Keep something in mind. In the U.S. Houghton...
Published on Dec 6 2008 by Michael W. Perry

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3.0 out of 5 stars For Tolkein fans...wonderful!
It takes great strength of mind to be able to stick through this book, but if you're a true Tolkien fan, you'll love every minute of it. The Book of Lost Tales Part I tells the story of Eriol, a great mariner who finds his way to the lost island of Tol Eressëa, The Lonely Isle, where dwell a lost tribe of Elves. He finds himself in the company of Lindo and Vairë, who...
Published on June 17 2003 by Amazon Customer


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overview of The History of Middle-earth Series, Dec 6 2008
By 
Michael W. Perry (Auburn, AL) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Collections of an author's work are often confusing, particularly when what the author has created is as complex as Tolkien's writings. Here's an overview of the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth, which was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. Hopefully, it will help you select which book or books to buy.

Keep something in mind. In the U.S. Houghton Mifflin publishes Tolkien's authorized works in hardback and trade paperback editions, while Ballantine Books publishes them as cheaper mass-market paperbacks. For some reason, Ballantine doesn't always make it clear that some of their titles are part of the same History of Middle-earth series as those published by Houghton Mifflin. If the title is the same, the content is the same. Which you buy depends on your taste in books and finances. I have copies of both.

GROUP ONE, VOLUMES I - V, EARLY TALES

These five volumes deal primarily Tolkien's writings before the publication of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). In them, Tolkien was struggling as a still unknown author to create his first history of Middle-earth.

Vol 1 & 2, The Book of Lost Tales Part 1 ( 1983) & 2 (1984). The Book of Lost Tales was written during the 1910s and 1920s. Wikipedia describes it this way: "The framework for the book is that a mortal Man visits the Isle of Tol Eressëa where the Elves live. In the earlier versions of the `Lost Tales' this man is named Eriol, of some vague north European origin, but in later versions he becomes Ælfwine, an Englishman of the Middle-ages."

Vol. 3, The Lays of Beleriand (1985). These are collections of poems, many of them incomplete, written between the 1920s and the late 1940s.

Vol 4, The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986). As you might guess by the title, in this book Christopher describes how his father shaped his vision of Middle-earth from the primitive The Book of Lost Tales to early versions of The Silmarillion. This theme is taken up again in volumes X and XI.

Vol 5. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987). Along with other writings this volume includes Tolkien's drafts of a tale about time travel. Wikipedia describes it this way: "The Lost Road itself is a fragmentary beginning of a tale, including a rough structure and several intiguing chunks of narrative, including four entire chapters dealing with modern England and Numenor, from which the entire story as it should have been can be glimpsed. The scheme was of time-travel by means of 'vision' or being mentally inserted into what had been, so as to actually re-experience that which had happened. In this way the tale links first to Saxon England of Alfred the Great, then to the Lombard Alboin of St. Benedict's time, the Baltic Sea in Old Norse days, Ireland at the time of the Tuatha's coming (600 years after the Flood), prehistoric North in the Ice Age, a 'Galdor story' of Third-Age Middle-Earth, and finally the Fall of Gil-Galad, before recounting the prime legend of the Downfall of Numenor/Atlantis and the Bending of the World. It harps on the theme of a 'straight road' into the West, now only in memory because the world is round."

GROUP TWO, VOLUMES VI - IX, LORD OF THE RINGS

If you or the friend you're buying for is primarily interested in the LOTR, then these four volumes are the books to have. Just keep in mind that you'll find in them many unfinished plots that may or may not fit well into LOTR. Tolkien was a perfectionist, always trying to improve plots and fill in details. These are his drafts.

Vol. 6, The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v. 1, 1988). Describes the initial stages of writing LOTR and covers the first three-fourths of The Fellowship of the Ring (until the Mines of Moria).

Vol. 7, The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 2, 1989). Covers from the Mines of Moria until Gandalf meets Théoden about one-fourth of the way into The Two Towers.

Vol. 8, The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 3, 1990). Continues the tale up to the opening of the Black Gate not quite three-quarters of the way through The Two Towers.

Vol. 9, Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 4, 1992). Completes the tale and includes an alternate ending in which Sam answers questions from his children. There is also a much shortened version of Vol. 9 called The End of the Third Age, which leaves out material that isn't related to LOTR.

GROUP THREE, VOLUMES X - XI, THE SILMARILLION

Just as The Hobbit created a public demand for more tales about hobbits, The Lord of the Rings created a demand for more tales about Middle-earth. To meet that demand, Tolkien struggled to reconcile and adapt many of his earlier tales to the historical framework made well-known by his two published works. He never completed those labors, so it was left after his death to his son Christopher to do so in The Silmarillion (1977). If you or a friend is interested in knowing more about The Silmarillion, these two volumes may be of interest.

Vol 10, Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion, v. 1, 1993). Contains material from earlier (1951 and later) drafts of The Silmarillion. Wikipedia notes that: "The title of this volume comes from a statement from one of the essays: 'Just as Sauron concentrated his power in the One Ring, Morgoth dispersed his power into the very matter of Arda, thus the whole of Middle-earth was Morgoth's Ring.'"

Vol. 11, The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v. 2, 1994). Addition material about the earlier drafts of The Silmarillion. Includes information about the origin of the Ents and Great Eagles.

GROUP FOUR, VOLUME XII AND INDEX, WRAP-UP

Vol. 12, The People's of Middle-earth (1996). Contains material that did not fit into the other volumes. The most interesting include additional appendices like those at the back of LOTR, essays on the races of Middle-earth, and about 30 pages of a sequel to the LOTR called The New Shadow. It was set a century after the LOTR. Tolkien abandoned the tale as too "sinister and depressing."

The History of Middle-earth Index (2002) is an index of all twelve volumes.

******

Keep in mind that books in The History of Middle-earth are nothing like reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. What J. R. R. Tolkien wrote is often fragmentary and unpolished rough drafts, while what Christopher wrote is literary scholarship, concerned more with sources and texts than plots. If you or the friend you are buying for is more interested in understanding LOTR better, you might be happier with a reference works such as:

Karen Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle-Earth (Revised Edition)

Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth

Or my own detailed, day-by-day chronology Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

All three will give you a richer, deeper understanding of LOTR.

******

If you're interested in reading books with the same flavor as Tolkien, you might consider reading William Morris, a once well-known writer who influenced Tolkien. For tales like the warriors of Rohan, see his The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains. For arduous quest journeys much like Frodo and Sam's quest to be rid of the Ring, read his The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World's End. The four tales have been collected into two inexpensive volumes:

More to William Morris: Two Books that Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien-The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains

On the Lines of Morris' Romances: Two Books That Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien-The Wood Beyond the World and the Well at the World's End

******

I hope this helps you to select wisely based on your own interests. You can save some money by buying collections of The History of Middle-earth in multi-volume sets. You can also save by buying the Ballantine mass-market paperback instead of the Houghton Mifflin trade paperback edition, although the former may have smaller type and you may need to use both hands to keep it open while you read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More from the Master, Jan. 3 2004
By 
Lawrence G Coatney "Geno" (Pagosa Springs, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book picks up where the first left off, opening with the tale of Tinuviel. It then carries you through the original conceptions Turin (Turambar and the Foaloke), and then on to Tuor (the fall of Gondolin). After these stories it gets a little harder to follow as the notes that Christopher uses become much more mish-mashed.
The tale of Tinuviel is interesting because this is one that goes through many different changes.
the basic story is there but it was written at the time when the silmarills were just becoming an important part of the whole mythology. Another surprising change is that Beren, who in the Silmarillion becomes the first Man to wed an Elf is here concieved of as an elf himself. That might throw Aragorn's long lineage out of whack! Also the necomancer (a.k.a. Sauron) is here a giant cat (Tevildo lord of the cats) with his own castle.
In Turambar and the Foaloke there are relativly few changes, most of them being changes of wording and name changes. Tis is one of the most sorrowful stories that I have ever read, though it is also one of me favorite. The only thing better than reading this is picking up a copy of Unfinished Tales and reading the final version that he worked on.
The most interesting and in my view rewarding tale in here is the fall of Gonddolin. I say this because this is the only place where you can find a finished version. The version in the Silmarillion though excellent was really written to be an oral piece, therefore being much shortened. The reason it was chosen as the official published version is because it was also revised to fit in Middle-Earth's history. If you read Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin in the Unfinished Tales you will find the most beautiful rendering, but sadly it stands uncomplete with Tuor just reaching the gates of Gondolin. But if you read the original story you get to see where it was going, and also you read what is one of the most fantastical battle scenes that I have ever read.(Even better than Peter Jackson's amazing rendering of the Battle of Pelenor Fields in the movie version of Return of the King).
The book then moves on to The Nauglafring, a dwarven necklace which encasing the silmaril that Beren and Tinuviel took from Morgoth, that brings about the ruin of the Realm of Doriath.
We are then brought to the Tale of Earendel who was the first Elf to be alowed to enter after he reached the sacred realm of Valinor.This and the next chapter, The History of Eriol or AElfwine, mostly consist of notes of how the stories were to be written, but they were abandoned shortly after this. Incedently, Eriol was originally concieved as having written The Book of Lost Tales.
All in all this is an excellent book if your interested in learning the history behind the Silmarillion and parts of Unfinished Tales.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thankful Tolkien "found" it, Dec 26 2003
By 
Lawrence G Coatney "Geno" (Pagosa Springs, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a wonderful book that looks not only at an awesome story, but also into how it was written. Some people have and will find this a dificult book to read, but it is a book you must go into with a little understanding.
To begin with I would highly recomend reading the "classics" of Tolkiens works. Read the Hobbit first, not so much for the depth of the work (it was written with children in mind), but for the questions that will arise when you read The Lord of the Rings. When you have finished this and have seen how the Third Age ends, with new things begining and old things ending, then it is time to move on to the Silmarillion, Tolkien's crown of his writing career.
Now you learn about the beginings of the world and the sad story of the Elves.
Finally you should read the beautiful yet [sadly] undone Unfinished Tales. Not only does it contain the stories that he was changing for the Silmarillion, but it is an excellent introduction to his son Christopher's thought provoking commentary.
Now we move on to the book you are wondering about. When I first read it (I was much younger at the time)I had the impression of it being a bunch of loose stories that were eventually rewritten to become the Silmarillion. WRONG!!
This is abeautiful work that evolves right before you eyes. The book of lost tales is actually a book that was written to be a mythology for England, which Tolkien saw to be sorely lacking. It is the story of an Englishman (Eriol) who finds the land of Faery and is told a series of stories which is an history of the world and the Elves, so these tales that were "lost" to humanity were given to Eriol who wrote them down and called it The Book of Lost Tales. (This is what Tolkien also did with the Hobbit by Bilbo Baggins, LOTR by Frodo and Sam, And the Silmarillion said to be compiled by Bilbo with the help of Frodo).
The commentary by his son is very hepful in keeping things straight, and and seeing a timeline of when things were written.
All in all this is an excellent book and series.
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3.0 out of 5 stars For Tolkein fans...wonderful!, June 17 2003
By 
Amazon Customer (Lexington, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
It takes great strength of mind to be able to stick through this book, but if you're a true Tolkien fan, you'll love every minute of it. The Book of Lost Tales Part I tells the story of Eriol, a great mariner who finds his way to the lost island of Tol Eressëa, The Lonely Isle, where dwell a lost tribe of Elves. He finds himself in the company of Lindo and Vairë, who grant him shelter. He becomes a part of their lives, eagerly drinking in the stories they have to tell him of the origin of the world, and the ancient times, of Valinor, the origin of evil, the great works and deeds of the gods, and the creation of the world as it exists now.
For readers of the Silmarillion, many of the stories are familiar. They are told, however, in greater detail than that which is set down in the Silmarillion, and contain several interesting literary differences. (Nearly all of which are expounded on by Christopher Tolkien, who is, of course, the son of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.) Some are as small as name changes, some are opposing details about the events surrounding a character. (Such as Dwarves were originally an evil race by nature, and Beren was an ELF!)
Christopher Tolkien pored through the scribbles and snatches that his father composed in his lifetime, and somehow managed to put it all together in this published form. He even offers commentary on each tale once it is finished. I often found that these commentaries are of little interest; I enjoyed the tales themselves more. Still, there are unique facts to be gleaned, such as such-and-such a page containing differences between this tale and that that Tolkien wrote, and a few interesting facts about his father.
The book contains the very beginning of Middle-Earth, as told to Eriol by Lindo. The Music of the Ainur, he learns of, and the coming of the gods down to Valinor. He learns of the dark deeds of Melko, the coming of the Elves, the darkening of Valinor, the creation of the sun and moon, the flight of the Noldili. The book ends with a tale told by an Elf named Gilfanon about the travail of the Noldili, who fled Valinor after the theft of Melko. Following the end of tales is an index on names, the etymologies, the development of names, etc.
Reading this book really gives you a feeling for how much work and effort went into the creation of the books we all enjoy, The Lord of the Rings. But little do we realize that there was a good three thousand years of history prior to that story - and Tolkien wrote it all.
If you have an enthusiasm for the works of Tolkien, the tales prior to the Rings trilogy, and the history of Middle-Earth, than you should read this book if you can. I'd recommend reading the Silmarillion first, even if you have already read it once; Christopher Tolkien compares the two many, many times. Also be forewarned that this book can be a little dry and long-winded. But for true Tolkien aficionados, it's worth every minute.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of magic, May 26 2002
By 
Eydun Andreassen (Torshavn Faroe Islands) - See all my reviews
Have you ever wondered how Tolkien wrote his wonderful stories? Then these are the books for you. Here we get to see the first steps of the creative process, the first ideas that began a world. Here are given the first drafts of the stories that were to become the Silmarillion, and even though the later stories are very different, the core of them is already there, along with many details that were to make it all the way through the process. Its fun to sitt there and recognise all the precious details.
The differences are just as great, and you will miss many of the central characters of the Silmarillion. On the other hand, you will meet many new ones.
The stories here have more details, more beautifull descriptions than the later book does, but the pace is different.
To tell you the truth, its almost worth buying the book just for the exelent commentaries and insights by Cristopher Tolkien, who shares his view of his fathers vision. Its hilarious to her him tell about hos difficult it was to figure out what went where, since these stories where scattered through many notebooks, and in some cases almost unreadable.
A word of advise, read The Silmarillion first. If you have, than this will give you a much deeper insight into the mind of a genius.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Heresy alert! Fanatical Tolkien fans, beware this review., April 16 2002
By 
James Yanni (Bellefontaine Neighbors, Mo. USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For lo, and many in the camp of the fanatical followers of the writings of Tolkien were sore wroth, for the reviewer did have the temerity to say bad things about some of those writings, indicating that the style was ponderous and pretentious, with neither humor nor spark of life to be found in any character anywhere in the book, nor in any jot of the writing beside. Yet did the reviewer compound his heresy, conceding only that there was some minor interest for the true fan in seeing the development of the ideas that went into the formulating of the world that Tolkien eventually created, and that those who, upon reading "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", do find that the best part of the entire experience is in reading the elvish poetry recited by sundry characters in those books, will undoubtedly be greatly enamored of the present work. Yet did he maintain that the vast majority of those who love those books enjoy them largely for the writing style in which they are told, and will therefore find little or nothing of value in the present work. Further, he did propose the blasphemy that the editor of this volume, one Christopher Tolkien, son of the master, did no favors to his father's legacy by publishing sloppy, immature first drafts of his father's writings for the obvious purpose of cashing in on the name of "Tolkien", and did further wonder when the volume of shopping lists, notes to remind himself of engagements, comments on the papers of his students, and other sundry scribblings of J.R.R. Tolkien can be expected to be published. And, greatest of the heresies that the reviewer was guilty of, he did suggest that perhaps there was a REASON that these tales were never published, and perhaps it would have been better if some lost tales had never been found.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In the beginning. . ., Nov. 19 2001
By 
Drogo Moss (Lake-by-Downs, The Shire, Middle-Earth) - See all my reviews
. . .a young soldier, fighting in the First World War, exercised his imagination beyond the realms of most mortals, and began, in this volume, the single greatest sustained work of fictional imagination of the 20th century (and possibly the 2nd millenium). JRR Tolkien truly deserves the title "Master of Middle-Earth".
In this book, "The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1", the Master's son, Christopher Tolkien (himself quite a scholar in his own right) presents the very beginnings of the legends which would grow into the Silmarillion and the other great tales, songs, poems, and adventures of Middle-Earth. This work (and the volumes to follow) represent a tremendous effort of editing, sorting and categorizing -- and all hobbits have much to be grateful for in Christopher's work.
In this volume, the astute hobbit will be able to identify the beginnings of the stories so well-loved in later years and the evolution of names, plots, literary devices, languages etc; as well as ideas and concepts which never quite got off the ground (The cottage of lost play) comes to mind.
Altogether, a highly enjoyable -- and highly recommended volume.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The great epic continues, Dec 18 1998
Part Two continues the history of the Elves and contains the oldest version of my personal favorite story "The Tale of Tinuviel". The stories in this book (which include an early version of Turumbar, The Fall of Gondolin, The Nauglafring- aka the fall of Doriath, and the story of Eriol) are recounted in grand Tolkienian style. They reveal some very interesting early ideas which Tolkien did not include in "The Silmarillion". The stories are superb in and of themselves but also offer a tantalizing 'behind the scenes' look at Tolkien's creative genius in progress. One of the most pleasurable aspects of reading this book is to watch the metamorphoses of the characters and to contemplate the elements which Tolkien altered or deleted in the later and more finished "Silmarillion". The stories in "Lost Tales 2" are even more marvelous than those of Book One. Book Two also provides a complete (though lamentable) closing to the tale of the wanderings or Eriol. Yet, to those who have read only "Lost Tales 1" there is no need to persuade. For I do not believe it humanly or divinely possible to read only Book One without inflaming the insatiable desire to experience the second half of the enchantment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb gem in Tolkien's treasury, Dec 17 1998
"The Lost Tales" are the early versions of the tales which were expanded and polished to become those in the Silmarillion. It is fascinating to see the evolution of these stories. (One can only imagine the level of perfection Tolkien would have reached had he ever completely finished his epic.) The Tales give a unique glimpse into the life of Elves on Tol Eressea as the human Eriol is introduced to it. This fascinating vision of life in the Western Lands is augmented with history of the Elves as told in their own oral tradition. Both books 1 and 2 are fabulous and intriguing, answering many questions and yet engendering many others. I became so enveloped in the tales that I read both books plus "The Lays of Beleriand" all at the same time! If you are interested in the internal and external history of Middle-Earth, this is a book you cannot afford to miss.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An insite on the early Silmarillion, Sept. 25 1998
In Christopher Tolkien's first volume in The History of Middle Earth series he brings to light his father's original conception of what became known as the Silmarillion. This volume deals with the central theme in Tolkien's early works where an Englishman named Elfwine (or Eriol in Elvish) is told the history of the Elves after finding the "straight road" to Tol Eressea. This book deals mostly with Elvish history before the coming of men, and the later histories can be found in another great book, The Book of Lost Tales 2. I would recommend this book, along with all twelve of the other volumes, to anyone who enjoyed Tolkien's works but found them to be too short and would like more information. Also, for those interested in making a career out of writing this series is a very good example of the hardship required to write a classic work of fiction.
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Book Of Lost Tales 2 Hme 2
Book Of Lost Tales 2 Hme 2 by J.R.R. Tolkien (Paperback - May 15 1992)
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