Top critical review
For Tolkein fans...wonderful!
on June 17, 2003
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.