Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.

2/09/2007

"Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth": An Introduction

Cynics might say that this volume is just another way to milk the success of "The Lord of the Rings". I would argue that Tolkien's creation of such a detailed other world and the extensive development of its own unique history and culture have sparked an enthusiasm by Tolkien fans to learn about as much as the author was able to create.

J.R.R. Tolkien got a relatively late start in his lifetime in creating the three-volume epic that took the world by storm. However, he had been writing about the world in which it takes place since he was a very young man. And, notwithstanding the fifteen plus years it took him to complete the books, there were so many other parts of the broader tale that were left unpublished.

Christopher Tolkien took on the daunting task of sifting through this material so that it would see the light of day. And though most of the stories that comprised the early history of Middle-Earth were in draft form, he was able to put together the early histories of Elves, Men and Dwarves in "The Silmarillion", to the delight of readers all over the world.

But there was more. Unlike the continuous flow of text that went into "The Silmarillion", Tolkien had several abandoned or partial stories that didn't quite fit into the other works. Or rather, as Christopher Tolkien puts it in the introduction to "Unfinished Tales":

"Many of the pieces in this collection are elaborations of matters told more briefly, or at least referred to, elsewhere"
Like film footage left on the cutting room floor, Tolkien's notes and unfinished manuscripts were left behind in favor of a more tightly-woven narrative. And for Tolkien, even one thousand pages was as tight as he could stand to make the story.

Roughly half of the material included in "Unfinished Tales" relates to the First and Second Ages of Middle-Earth only. In fact, much of it presents different or more elaborate versions of the stories included in "The Silmarillion". One of the difficulties in discussing such stories is that geographically they take place in a part of Middle-Earth that no longer exists after the end of the First Age as it becomes submerged beneath the ocean during the War of Wrath against Morgoth. Many readers not familiar with "The Silmarillion" would find these tales difficult to follow.

So for simplicity's sake, I'll be focusing mostly on the parts that relate to the characters, events and plot points that the average fan of "The Lord of the Rings" would already know. As such I will be focusing primarily on what is included in the section titled "The Third Age".

The nine posts address the following subjects:

  1. "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"
  2. "The Istari"
  3. "The Palantiri"
  4. "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields"
  5. "The Quest for Erebor"
  6. "The Hunt for the Ring"
  7. "The Battles of the Fords of Isen"

Unlike the chapters of "The Lord of the Rings", I'm not as familiar with the material in "Unfinished Tales" so I expect to spend considerably more time in preparing these posts. Obviously they will be fewer and less frequent than the previous entries I have done and for that I beg the reader's pardon and ask for patience.

But if you're interested, I welcome you to follow along and feel free to comment as you wish.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to begin work on "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn"...

2 Comments:

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Slicer said...

If you don't mind my intrusion, but I'd like to give you some advice, since I've become fairly acquainted with the Unfinished Tales over the last 3 years.

Most of the problems generated during a reading of the Unfinished Tales is that people read cover-to-cover and end up smashing their reading cars on the big brick wall that is "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn." It's very complex, and full of contradictory versions, making the average readers just rather go clean up their garages instead of trying to understand any of that.

Hear my advice: start with "The Disaster at the Gladden Fields!" It's a much shorter story, completely relevant to the story of the Ring, and will take far less than the week and a half you'll take to dissect "G and C" to a half-organized article draft. Been there, done that.

Best regards,
R. Jaroszewski

 
At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with you on that point as when i read it took a while to get through g & c especially as i had to reread parts that where confusing me with there controdictions.


Regards alison walsh

 

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