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129 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
"The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1" is the first of two volumes containing the very first versions J.R.R. Tolkien wrote of the legends that ultimately formed "The Silmarillion". He began writing these stories during World War I, and his quest for perfection in their form and presentation was so rigorous that he was unable to publish any version of "The Silmarillion" before his death in 1973. His son Christopher edited "The Silmarillion" for publication and followed it up with thirteen more volumes of his father's writings on Middle-earth and Valinor: "Unfinished Tales" and the mammoth twelve-volume series "The History of Middle-earth," of which "The Book of Lost Tales" comprises the first two volumes.
"The Silmarillion" itself fails to appeal to many readers of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," and the thirteen tomes that followed it will have even less appeal to such readers (except perhaps for the four volumes that show how Tolkien went about writing LotR). However, for Tolkien aficionados the History series (affectionately abbreviated HoMe) is essential reading, and "The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1" is not only its beginning but one of its most important volumes. In it are found versions of the early stories of "The Silmarillion" (the birth of the Two Trees, the coming of the Elves to Valinor, the flight of the Noldoli or Gnomes, later renamed the Noldor by Tolkien, into exile, and the making of the Sun and Moon) which are far fuller than any later versions written by Tolkien, but the plots and nomenclature of which are still far from evolving into their final forms. Reading these stories is necessary to gain a full appreciation of the beauty of Valinor and of the Trees, the Elves' longing for which underlies all of Tolkien's work.
Even those readers who dislike "The Silmarillion" should seek out this book in their local libraries for the sake of the first few pages of Christopher Tolkien's introduction, in which he explains the peculiar nature of "The Silmarillion" and why it inevitably has a different sort of appeal than that of "The Lord of the Rings," and thus may put off readers who enjoy the latter work. For Tolkien fans, "The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1" is highly recommended reading.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 II continues 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 continues to learn the stories of the ancient world they have to tell him, of the great heroes of the world after its corruption by the Dark Lord Melkor.
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.
I enjoyed reading this book, partly because I am a Tolkien aficionado, and partly because it satisfies the fantasy itch in a lot of people, myself included. The Book of Tales 2 begins (sort of) where Book 1 left off. The stories that the editor, Christopher Tolkien sets forth are less whole and complete than those found in book 1, but this is by no means the fault of Christopher Tolkien. His father, beloved author and scholar J.R.R. Tolkien was perfecting and re-shaping these tales to his death in 1973.
Nonetheless, the stories are enjoyable to read. In Book 2, we read such stories as the Tale of Tinúviel (Or, Lúthien) the elf-maiden who forsook her immortal life for the love of a mortal man, Beren, much as the more popular union between Arwen and Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings books themselves. Of course, the most startling and shocking idea was that in this early version of the story, Beren was not a man at all, but an elf! He was but of another race of elves, which caused the high price of a Silmaril for Lúthien's hand in marriage by her father. There are several different elements of the story changed as well, such as Lúthien's need to save her love from the house of Tevildo, (a feline precursor to Sauron?), the evil cat-like creature who enslaved Beren. Of course, all these changes and many more are commented on, and highlighted by the ever-thorough editor.
Also found is the story of Turin Turambar, the man who roamed Middle-Earth with much sorrow and woe, who won both misery and renown for his great skill and his misdeeds. An extremely sad (and long!) tale.
After this, the tale of the great fall of Gondolin, the great city of refuge, hidden from Morgoth until it was brought down by treason from within. Hence from this destruction escaped Ëarendil, the great mariner of whom great tales are told of later. The tale of the Nauglafring, the Necklace of the Dwarves is told following this tale, with different changes in it as well.
Following this is the tale of Ëarendil. This differs so much from the original story that most of us know from reading the Silmarillion that it's not nearly as wonderful of a story to read.
Finally, there is the history of Eriol, or Ælfwine, the man who first came to the Lonely Isle and learned these great stories from the Wise that dwell there. Most astounding and odd in this history is the idea that Tolkien had apparently conceived; that the lands where the Elves dwelled came over time to be England! The Lonely Isle was dragged from its place by Ulmo, but his rival Ossë took hold of it to drag it back, and broke of a part, which became Ireland. In this case, one must wonder where the land and time of Middle-Earth itself, with its hobbits, wizards and orcs came to pass, if that land eventually became England!
For my part, I find that these stories are fun to read, but if you are interested in the true substance of the tale, your best bet is to read the Silmarillion. The stories are often condensed, but they are in their finished state (as much as can be finished), and there are no footnotes to go and read.
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.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book gives great insight to Tolkiens first ideas of Middle-Earth, the first ideas of Orcs, Elves, Balrogs, Valar and Ents. The seafarer Ælfwine (or Eriol, his name given by the Elves), comes upon the Elven island Tol Eressea, where he finds the city of Kortirion and the friendly elves Vaire and Lindo, who gives him a place to sleep and rest for several days. On the island his great lust for seafaring ceases, and he starts to learn the true story of the World from the Elves. He is told about the great Valar, the terrible Morgoth, the glory of the Early Days, and of the highest himself: Eru Iluvatar.
This is a magnificent work which combines Tolkien's magic of writing with a anazing mytology, simply a masterwork, yes i would say a second Silmarillion
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Part Two continues the history of the Elves and contains the oldest version of my personal favorite story "The Tale of Tinuviel". The stories in this book (which include an early version of Turumbar, The Fall of Gondolin, The Nauglafring- aka the fall of Doriath, and the story of Eriol) are recounted in grand Tolkienian style. They reveal some very interesting early ideas which Tolkien did not include in "The Silmarillion". The stories are superb in and of themselves but also offer a tantalizing 'behind the scenes' look at Tolkien's creative genius in progress. One of the most pleasurable aspects of reading this book is to watch the metamorphoses of the characters and to contemplate the elements which Tolkien altered or deleted in the later and more finished "Silmarillion". The stories in "Lost Tales 2" are even more marvelous than those of Book One. Book Two also provides a complete (though lamentable) closing to the tale of the wanderings or Eriol. Yet, to those who have read only "Lost Tales 1" there is no need to persuade. For I do not believe it humanly or divinely possible to read only Book One without inflaming the insatiable desire to experience the second half of the enchantment.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Do you love the fiction of JRR Tolkien? Are you interested in the very beginning of the legends? The stories that evolved into "The Silmarillion"? Then you must purchase "The Book of Lost Tales, part 1". Here you will find, thanks to the loving research and editing of Tolkien's son Christopher, the first beginnings of the stories, legends and poems that became Tolkien's life work. Begun during the First World War, the legends occupied the remaining 55 years of Tolkien's life.
You cannot begin to fully appreciate "The Lord of the Rings" without reading "The Silmarillion" -- and this volume provides the very beginning of what became "The Silmarillion".
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book that looks not only at an awesome story, but also into how it was written. Some people have and will find this a dificult book to read, but it is a book you must go into with a little understanding.
To begin with I would highly recomend reading the "classics" of Tolkiens works. Read the Hobbit first, not so much for the depth of the work (it was written with children in mind), but for the questions that will arise when you read The Lord of the Rings. When you have finished this and have seen how the Third Age ends, with new things begining and old things ending, then it is time to move on to the Silmarillion, Tolkien's crown of his writing career.
Now you learn about the beginings of the world and the sad story of the Elves.
Finally you should read the beautiful yet [sadly] undone Unfinished Tales. Not only does it contain the stories that he was changing for the Silmarillion, but it is an excellent introduction to his son Christopher's thought provoking commentary.
Now we move on to the book you are wondering about. When I first read it (I was much younger at the time)I had the impression of it being a bunch of loose stories that were eventually rewritten to become the Silmarillion. WRONG!!
This is abeautiful work that evolves right before you eyes. The book of lost tales is actually a book that was written to be a mythology for England, which Tolkien saw to be sorely lacking. It is the story of an Englishman (Eriol) who finds the land of Faery and is told a series of stories which is an history of the world and the Elves, so these tales that were "lost" to humanity were given to Eriol who wrote them down and called it The Book of Lost Tales. (This is what Tolkien also did with the Hobbit by Bilbo Baggins, LOTR by Frodo and Sam, And the Silmarillion said to be compiled by Bilbo with the help of Frodo).
The commentary by his son is very hepful in keeping things straight, and and seeing a timeline of when things were written.
All in all this is an excellent book and series.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Book of Lost Tales shows you what wasn't included in the Silmarillion as well as some completely new stories, such as that of Eriol who learns of the origins of the Elves from his kinsmen. This shows you what Tolkien was conjuring up in the trenches during World War I. It's not really for those who are stuck only to the writing style of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You have to read the Silmarillion first before you can completely appreciate this work.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
. . .a young soldier, fighting in the First World War, exercised his imagination beyond the realms of most mortals, and began, in this volume, the single greatest sustained work of fictional imagination of the 20th century (and possibly the 2nd millenium). JRR Tolkien truly deserves the title "Master of Middle-Earth".
In this book, "The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1", the Master's son, Christopher Tolkien (himself quite a scholar in his own right) presents the very beginnings of the legends which would grow into the Silmarillion and the other great tales, songs, poems, and adventures of Middle-Earth. This work (and the volumes to follow) represent a tremendous effort of editing, sorting and categorizing -- and all hobbits have much to be grateful for in Christopher's work.
In this volume, the astute hobbit will be able to identify the beginnings of the stories so well-loved in later years and the evolution of names, plots, literary devices, languages etc; as well as ideas and concepts which never quite got off the ground (The cottage of lost play) comes to mind.
Altogether, a highly enjoyable -- and highly recommended volume.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In Christopher Tolkien's first volume in The History of Middle Earth series he brings to light his father's original conception of what became known as the Silmarillion. This volume deals with the central theme in Tolkien's early works where an Englishman named Elfwine (or Eriol in Elvish) is told the history of the Elves after finding the "straight road" to Tol Eressea. This book deals mostly with Elvish history before the coming of men, and the later histories can be found in another great book, The Book of Lost Tales 2. I would recommend this book, along with all twelve of the other volumes, to anyone who enjoyed Tolkien's works but found them to be too short and would like more information. Also, for those interested in making a career out of writing this series is a very good example of the hardship required to write a classic work of fiction.
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