Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
(1994, Harper Collins)

The History of Middle-Earth, book 11

The final draft versions of the legends of the Elder days in Beleriand before the publication of the Silmarillion, as well as essays on the elvish language.


+ -- 2nd reading (hardcover)
August 29th to September 20th, 2015


Although the story was of course always interesting, much of this book seemed like unnecessary repetition of previous versions of the story, leading up the final one in the Silmarillion. The most interesting part was the new story of Hurin's travels after the death of his children.

Spoiler review:

As with the other books in the later parts of this series, this one starts with an assumed knowledge or memory of what was previously discussed, and it builds up through more versions. The big difference this time is that the final form in the published Silmarillion has been reached in most cases (either here or the next form jumps to the Unfinished Tales, first). In this case, most of it is commentary, because the majority of the story had reached close to the final form in earlier versions. I was disappointed at first to see that the new model discussed in Morgoth's Ring, the version where the sun already existed before Arda was made, wasn't continued here. However, it kind of makes sense, since nearly all the stories that take place in Beleriand occur after the rising of the sun, anyway. So there is very little difference, except in the essence of the silmarils and the influence of the two trees.

The Grey Annals form a sort of Tale of Years, detailing the exploits of the sons of Feanor and Fingolfin after they arrive in Beleriand and set up the siege of Angband, and then their slow destruction as Morgoth releases his armies and sets up various betrayals, through Beren and Turin, though he never reached the Fall of Gondolin. Most of this was pretty repetitive. Although I like the story, so that it did hold my interest, I don't recall the previous one enough to note the small differences. The same is true of the later Quenta Silmarillion and the Tale of Years. Although the author states that there is significant development, it was the story that most interested me.

In the middle of the book comes a completely new story, an expansion of the tale of Hurin after Turin and Nienor die. It is a massive expansion of the story that far outweighs the other chapters in the tales of Arda, and could have formed a complete book on its own, if it was ever completed. Unfortunately, it was never completed, and we only get a very small fraction of the tale that was to be told. Maybe it's only because the story was new, it made it fresh, but it was very interesting and really made me want more of it. Although most of the story took place in the forest of Brethil, it introduced some new characters and traditions of the people within that forest.

The small sections about the Eagles and Ents were almost entirely composed of notes, with very little narrative. Finally, the essay about elvish languages held no interest at all for me. Due to the nature of its presentation, in the form of an educational textbook, it was very difficult to read, and looks like it was meant only as a reference. I didn't read the entire thing, but only browsed through some of the word entries.

I think it became a lot more difficult for the author to present the text of the Silmarillion in this book because it had pretty much reached the final form. Unfortunately, that makes it a lot less interesting than the actual story would suggest. It's a good thing that he found some new and interesting material to spice it up with.


-- First reading (hardcover)
August 30th to September 11th, 1995


No review available.


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