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5.0 out of 5 stars Overview of The History of Middle-earth Series, Dec 6 2008
Michael W. Perry (Auburn, AL) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Book Of Lost Tales 2 Hme 2 (Paperback)
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.


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."


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.


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.


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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4.0 out of 5 stars The History of middle earth's second chapter., Feb. 11 2004
By A Customer
The Book of Lost Tales 2 starts off right where the first book finished. The different tales in this book prove to be a great summary of the history of middle earth. The commentaries that the tales have are done by Christopher Tolkien. These commentaries, combined with the notes that also are in the tales, make understanding this book much easier than one would think after taking a quick glance through the tales. Overall this book was wonderful. It was difficult to read at times but it is a great book for all Tolkein fans. I would highly reccomend this for anybody who is interested in the mystical, wonderful world of Tolkein's Middle Earth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More from the Master, Jan. 3 2004
Lawrence G Coatney "Geno" (Pagosa Springs, Colorado USA) - See all my reviews
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 What You Didn't Read in The Silmarillion, Jan. 4 2002
The Book of Lost Tales 2 tells the tales that you didn't exactly see in the final published version of the Silmarillion. It brings new insight to the background of how Tolkien wrote these stories while he was still conceiving the very beginnings of this magical world that would evolve into the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings. This is for anyone for wants to know about Middle-Earth and Valinor than was explained in Tokien's earlier published works.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book continues. . ., Nov. 19 2001
Drogo Moss (Lake-by-Downs, The Shire, Middle-Earth) - See all my reviews
. . .the work begun in "The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1" and carries the earliest versions of what would eventually become "The Silmarillion" through to their completion.
Any hobbit who owns the first volume in this series, will wish to acquire this title as well.
Highly recommended -- but does not stand alone well without the first book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning, Continued. . ., Dec 20 2000
David Zampino "21st Century Hobbit" (Glendale, Wisconsin) - See all my reviews
Do you love the fiction of JRR Tolkien? Are you interested in the very beginning of the legends? The stories that evolved into "The Silmarillion"? Then you must purchase "The Book of Lost Tales, part 2". Here you will find, thanks to the loving research and editing of Tolkien's son Christopher, more early accounts of the stories, legends and poems that became Tolkien's life work. Begun during the First World War, the legends occupied the remaining 55 years of Tolkien's life.
You cannot begin to fully appreciate "The Lord of the Rings" without reading "The Silmarillion" -- and this volume, like "The Book of Lost Tales, part 1" provides the very beginning of what became "The Silmarillion".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awsome!, Feb. 24 2000
The book that follows up THE BOOK OF LOST TALES 1
Very good book more holding than the first and a must for all tolkien fans!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all tolkien fans or any other fantasy reader, May 24 1999
By A Customer
No person can Realy do tolkien justice for all the greats he has written for us. I feel this book was far superior to the first becaus it held together a little better.
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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 Second Middle Earth volume better than the first, Sept. 25 1998
In the second volume of The History of Middle Earth, Christopher Tolkien once again does a superb job in showing his father's early view of Elvish histories and giving his indispencible annotations. In this volume, Tolkiens main stories come into view. The Tale of Tinuviel, Turumbar and the Dragon, and The Fall of Gondolin are here told in more detail than would later be seen. The Fall of Gondolin in particular is one of my favorite stories and easily rivals anything written in LOTR. This volume gives the early versions of the Elvish history from the coming of men to War of Wrath, plus some insight on Elfwine himself. I recommend this book to any Tolkien fan and especially those that enjoy, as I do, classical literature because of this book's rich Old English style.
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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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