After reading this, I have finally decided that I am not even
remotely interested in linguistics or phonology. I have also
concluded that I do certainly enjoy the history of Arnor and Gondor, in a completely
different way from the Lord of the Rings. But to the point that I
was dismissing the hobbit sections in favour of the Numenorean sections.
Like the preceding eleven volumes, and Unfinished
book is compiled by Christopher Tolkien, who comments and makes notes on
just about everything in the making of whatever is being discussed.
It follows the most minute differences between texts, be they early drafts,
or nearly final copies. The notes that I found most interesting were
the references to the other books in this series, where I could look up
what he was referring to, and could even remember some of them!
The first part of the book, which takes up more than half the
pages, deals with the making of the Appendices. Some of this I enjoyed,
others I did not. I liked the retelling and creation of the myths
of Numenor to Arnor and Gondor. I had always placed the making of
the Rings of Power in the Third Age, but this is wrong. They were
made in the Second Age, which ended when the One Ring was lost.
The Tales of Years and the Heirs of Elendil were the best
parts of this, because we could see the development of various aspects
of the myths, showing the kings down from Elendil to Aragorn. The
meeting of Aragorn and Arwen is special, and I have decided that I must
reread Unfinished Tales in order to get a better feel for the relationship.
I was not really interested in the Hobbit genealogies, nor the
calendars, and tried to pass through these chapters quickly. But
it was interesting to see how Tolkien had developed the evolution of the
calendars, in the different realms.
What I really didn't like, however, was how Tolkien made himself
into a historian, translating the "tales" uncovered from ages long past.
I hate the way he tells the reader how he came up with the names, because
they are not the real names, and the real names would sound too strange
for our ears. So he gives examples of the real names, and how he
has translated them. I understand that the creation of languages
was the primary reason for creating the world of Arda, but it is the part
that interests me the least. I wish he would have left it as a story,
or myth, and not try to give it as if it had been just discovered.
I realize that between the Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, the
form is of a story or myth, but it is obvious that he wanted to do more
Part Two deals with some later writings, all of which deal with
languages, and the way they had changed over the course of the first three
ages. The languages of Men were interesting to a certain degree,
but it tended to drag on. Tolkien also revisited the languages after
The Lord of the Rings was published, and discovered that there were roots
and parts of words that just did not make phonological sense. So
he wrote long essays on why this was so, from the purposeful changes in
the elf languages, to the variations of mannish and dwarfish languages.
Part Three gives some more language explanations, typically from
an Elvish point of view, explaining it to man. I found it tiresome,
except that this was explained as if it belonged to the Book of Lost Tales.
Part Four gives the proposed sequel to the Lord of the Rings,
which seems to be a dark mystery, but doesn't fit in with what we know
about Middle-Earth. However, I can see why Tolkien abandoned it,
because it becomes less interesting when there are no elves, dwarves or
magical peoples around. Men are just not interesting by themselves
in a fantasy universe.
The second story in this part I found to be more interesting,
and I wish it had been finished. It comes from the point of view
of some Wild Men, when the Numenorean Kings first landed in Middle-Earth.
It is truly engaging, for the short distance it takes. It is unclear
whether the Numenoreans have fallen under the power of Sauron yet, but
perhaps there are two groups -one whom the Wild Men fought off the first
time, and the second group, who are elf friends. We'll never know.
So there were good parts and bad parts, and parts that simply
did not interest me in the slightest. I will enjoy going back and
rereading many parts of this history, but I do not think that I will take
in every page of it again.