Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth: Fragments from Tolkien

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. TolkienUnfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first work that showed us how J.R.R. Tolkien’s obsessive perfectionism was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gave us the wonderfully deep world and implied distances of THE LORD OF THE RINGS; and on the other hand it left us with a jumble of tales in various states of revision and development that had to be compiled by Tolkien’s son Christopher into some form as The Silmarillion… a jumble of tales that, if they had been finished, would have given us a truly staggering body of work.

Just reading the fragment that makes up the entirety of “Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin” makes me weep for what might have been. Given the chance to expand even half of the partial tales from The Silmarillion into something equating the full treatment of THE LORD OF THE RINGS would have been a wonder indeed.

Even given the incomplete nature of the works herein, the reader is greatly repaid the effort of reading them even though many tantalizing questions are left unanswered. We get perhaps the only significant view of the land of Númenor in the Second Age; intriguing glimpses into the nature of the Istari, the Woodwoses, and the Palantiri; and expansions on the background of the Third Age and the events that led up to both The Hobbit and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth is a really amazing work and an enjoyable read if you’re a die-hard Tolkien fan.

Publisher: A New York Times bestseller for twenty-one weeks upon publication, UNFINISHED TALES is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and further relates events as told in THE SILMARILLION and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The book concentrates on the lands of Middle-earth and comprises Gandalf’s lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End, the story of the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand, and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan and the journey of the Black Riders during the hunt for the Ring. UNFINISHED TALES also contains the only surviving story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about the Five Wizards sent to Middle-earth as emissaries of the Valar, about the Seeing Stones known as the Palantiri, and about the legend of Amroth. Writing of the Appendices to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, J.R.R. Tolkien said in 1955, “Those who enjoy the book as a ‘heroic romance’ only, and find ‘unexplained vistas’ part of the literary effect, will neglect the Appendices, very properly.” UNFINISHED TALES is avowedly for those who, to the contrary, have not yet sufficiently explored Middle-earth, its languages, its legends, it politics, and its kings.

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TERRY LAGO, one of our regular guest reviewers, is a Torontonian who, like all arts students, now works in the IT field. He has been a fan of fantasy ever since being introduced to Tolkien by his older brother when he was only a wee lad, though he has since branched out to enjoy all spectrums of the Fantasy genre and quite a few of the science fiction one as well. Literary prose linked with well-drawn characters are the things he most looks for in a book.

View all posts by Terry Lago (guest)

One comment

  1. I was a huge fan of Tolkien as a teenager, and re-reading the LOTR a decade or so ago the magic was still there. But I have to say that the Silmarillion left me totally unmoved, then and now. I don’t sense that there really WERE stories comparable to the finished works inherent in these “tales,” rather that they were an incredibly robust version of just the kind of backstory that the best SF&F writers always do (Jack Vance as a particularly fine example). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that these “notes” could or would have ever emerged as completed narratives. Just giving my perspective.

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