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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Series Overview
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 July 3 2010 by Michael W. Perry

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shipped quickly but . . . . .
The books fit in a box, its a box set. The box was handled roughly at some point and was dented / crushed / discoloured on all four corners. Almost looked used but was wrapped it a plastic bag?
Published 8 months ago by Leonard Magee


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Series Overview, July 3 2010
By 
Michael W. Perry (Auburn, AL) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5 (Mass Market 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.

GROUP ONE, VOLUMES I - V, EARLY TALES

These five volumes deal primarily with 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 10 and 11.

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, 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 book-length, detailed, day-by-day chronology of The Lord of the Rings, Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

Places, terms and dates, together 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

NOTE: The individual volumes in the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth series are also published in three large 'Parts' in a series inconsistently titled either The Complete History of Middle-earth and The History of Middle-earth

Part 1 contains volumes I-V from the single-volume series.
Part 2 contains volumes VI to IX from the single-volume series.
Part 3 contains volumes X-XII from the single-volume series.

Which you might buy depends on your taste and how you plan to use the books. Would you rather have three bulky volumes of about 1500 pages each or twelve volumes that are typically 450 pages long?

******

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 For the serious student and avid lover of Middle-earth, June 4, 2004, Sept. 1 2012
By 
Mike London "MAC" (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5 (Mass Market Paperback)
With this compilation of the mammoth HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH, we get the literary backstory, so to say, of J. R. R. Tolkien's turmoil and travails of the composition of one of the most complex fantasies every constructed. Admittedly difficult reading, you must have a deep, abiding interest in mythology and Tolkien's desire to create one to get through this, and you need a working knowledge of Tolkien's work to really understand the HISTORY. Do not buy this expecting anything as nearly accessible THE LORD OF THE RINGS or THE HOBBIT. The real meat, to literary historians who are not specialized in Tolkien and to the causal fan, is the volumes VI-IX, which deal with the creation of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, one of the most significant volumes ever released the world, online with Homer, Virgil, and Dante. This is a graduate level look at what goes in the making of a literary masterpiece. These four volumes are THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW, THE TREASON OF ISENGARD, THE WAR OF THE RING, and SAURON DEFEATED, also available in its own set. The HISTORY operates as a chronicle of the evolutionary processes of one of the most ambitious literary projects of the 20th century.

Gathering the first five volumes, this box set covers Tolkien's mythology from the earliest written texts (the first two volumes) to the mid 1930s, before Tolkien set aside THE SILMARILLION to begin work on his epic novel, THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

The first two volumes deal with the earliest form of THE SILMARILLION. In many ways, startlingly different than the forms the legends finally found themselves in the published work. The prose is work-man-like, and a far cry from the more accomplished writings of the later volumes. Most interesting is in the original form Beren was an elf, which totally changes a massive strand in the mythology. The next are the epic LAYS that were never completed, and showing Tolkien was a poet of very accomplished calibre. THE SHAPING deals with the geography and physical history and includes some historical Annals. THE LOST ROAD shows us an unfinished novel and several other unearthed treasures, including invaluable philological material that shows how inseperable Tolkien's linguistics was from his creative writing.

This publication is for the serious student and lover of J. R. R. Tolkien's work. The causal fan will find this much too expensive and much too expansive. For those only marginally interested the volumes dealing with THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy novel should be looked at. But those who love Middle-earth and want to marvel at Tolkien's work, this is a must-have purchase. It's a very rare opportunity to see the creation of a work of such massive import to our international societies. Tolkien's commitment to this birthing process of a beautiful work of art truly stands out as one of the great efforts of Man to give homage to his God, as Tolkien saw it (read his essay on Faerie Stories), and I see it as well. Get it and become immersed - though beware this detailing the construction of this elaborate universe, which means these are rough drafts and various other things that didn't make it into publication in Tolkien's time, adding a huge amount of material to Tolkien's fandom to consider. Christopher's editorial notes are a must have. Thanks to the Tolkien family and to Christopher for their support of their father (who died in 1973) and of his son for the publication of this work. A very unique moment in literary history indeed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shipped quickly but . . . . ., Dec 25 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5 (Mass Market Paperback)
The books fit in a box, its a box set. The box was handled roughly at some point and was dented / crushed / discoloured on all four corners. Almost looked used but was wrapped it a plastic bag?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As with all Tolkien, fantastic!, Feb. 4 2013
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This review is from: The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5 (Mass Market Paperback)
Started reading as soon as I received them and could not put thems down. These are a great add on to any Tolkien collection.
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