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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
"The War of the Ring" is the third installment of Christopher Tolkien's "The History of The Lord of the Rings" series, and the eighth volume of his massive "The History of Middle Earth".
Like the two volumes before it, Christopher Tolkien takes the reader on a detailed journey of the creative processes through which "The Lord of the Rings" came to be. Of particular interest in this book:
The development of the "Paths of the Dead" story.
The development of the character of Denethor, Steward of Gondor.
The development of "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields".
The development of the story of Shelob and Frodo's capture.
It's unfortunate that Christopher Tolkien was unable to finish "The History of The Lord of the Rings" in three volumes, so the reader is left with the story still unfinished. It is also worth noting that these books, especially as they proceed to the end of the story, do not simply rehash the final work. If sections of a chapter underwent little or no evolutionary development, they are treated briefly. The greatest attention is paid to those episodes which were written and re-written, often in very different ways.
I was somewhat disappointed that the theme of Gollum's "near repentance" was not treated in detail, as JRR Tolkien felt that this was a key turning-point in the story. But again, if an episode underwent little development, Christopher did not spend much time on it.
Five stars -- and another "Thank-you" to Christopher for this labor of love on his late father's behalf.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 1999
Christopher Tolkien's analysis and exhaustive research of his father's notes and drafts for the second part of "Two Towers" is an interesting read. SciComm.Net would recommend it for any prospective writers who would like to know the involved thought process and amount of drafting that goes into a complex, involving book such as Tolkien's masterpiece. War of the Rings includes notes on the Palantir, Shelob's lair, and others- See how Tolkien's story evolved over the course of several years. A must-buy from Amazon.Com for all fantasy writers, amateur to advanced, and any of Tolkien's devotees- especially at the reduced price.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 9, 2004
"The War of the Ring" - Tolkien's preferred title for "The Return of the King" - is the third of four volumes dealing with the history of the writing of "The Lord of the Rings." Like the other volumes in the series, it features unpublished writings by Tolkien, supplemented, explained, footnoted, annotated and expounded upon by his son, Christopher Tolkien.
If you're not a Tolkien fan, you need not apply. These incomplete and unfinished texts will only bore you. But if you're interested in seeing how the Professor developed the rich creation of Middle Earth, warts and all, this is a treasure trove of material.
This book is part of the larger, 12-part History of Middle Earth series, which takes a close look at the creation of Tolkien's greatest achievement - Middle Earth itself - through early drafts, unpublished texts, and dead end writings.
For ardent Tolkien readers, the series is a fascinating look at one of the great literary creations of the 20th Century, full of rich detail, writings never before seen, and stories only now being told. For more casual fans, it's text better left unread.
Like the volumes that came before ("The Return of the Shadow" and "The Treason of Isengard"), we have the earliest versions of what would later become "The Lord of the Rings." Tolkien's troubles in bringing the story to a close, abandoned storylines, and alternate endings are all presented in incomplete prose. (Take a peak at the original end of Eowyn's character arc).
The wealth of information is fantastic, and Christopher Tolkien goes to great lengths to examine each text, putting them in the context of the larger puzzle of his father's writings. The exploration of how "The Lord of the Rings" came about is fantastic - for those interested. Otherwise, it will bore. This is, after all, a series of unfinished draft chapters and essays on the text. I enjoyed it, but many won't.
Anybody wishing to do a study of Tolkien's craft, into "behind the scenes" writings, or just interested in finding a few snatches of new Middle Earth material (even if in unfinished form, there are some scattered throughout the series) will certainly find what they are looking for here. Christopher Tolkien's work here is appreciated by scores of ardent Tolkien fans. Those looking for fresh new tales about hobbits and heroes, however, will be disappointed. This isn't new fiction, nor does it even feature finished works. Seek elsewhere if you are looking for more tales in the way of "The Lord of the Rings."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
`The War of the Ring' is the third of a four volume series (`The History of the Lord of the Rings') within a series, (volume VIII of `The History of Middle Earth') edited by Christopher Tolkien, from the unpublished writings of his father, J. R. R. Tolkien, most famous as the author of `The Hobbit' and `The Lord of the Rings' (LotR).

This thick volume, larger than `The Return of the King' begins with the destruction of Isengard by the Ents and Saruman's downfall (sort of) at the hands of Gandalf. The editor brings us at the end of this volume to the climax of the conflict between the forces of the West and Sauron, over the fate of the `One Ring'. Thus, it spans the last third of `The Two Towers and the first three-fourths of `The Return of the King'.

Being an inveterate lover of maps, this volume is especially interesting, as it has lots of original maps penned by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, plus line drawings of important locations in the story, primarily Minas Tirith and Cirith Ungol. The largest map is of Mordor and Gondor, with a very nice `legend' explaining all the major features of the lands, especially those south of the White mountains which get very little mention in the LotR itself.

One sidelight of this review of the drafts is to see how the names and characteristics of minor characters changed from Tolkien's original conception to their appearance in the final work. The Huorns, the semi-senescent trees `herded' by the ents appear under the name of `Galbedirs'.

If you have found your way through the first two volumes of this `The History of the Lord of the Rings', you can't stop now. This volume contains notes on what certainly the most important part of the narrative.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Christopher Tolkien does yet another masterful job in describing the process behind his father's writing of "The Lord of the Rings" saga, covering the interval from King Theodeon's and Gandalf's arrival at Isengard to the opening of the Black Gate of Mordor. The book excels in its descriptions of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, the development of the "Paths of the Dead", the "Battle of Pelennor Fields", and Frodo's fateful encounter with the giant malevolent spider Shelob. It is well worth the reader's time learning how Tolkien developed these important episodes in the saga. I concur with an earlier reviewer who has lamented that Christopher Tolkien has not explored the issue of Gollum's near repetenance. However, this is merely a minor complaint of what is most definitely the latest volume in the ongoing authoritative literary "dissection" of the world's greatest fantasy saga by the son of its author. This splendid tome will appeal not only to diehard Tolkien fans, but also serious students of literature interested in understanding Tolkien's thinking behind the writing of "The Lord of the Rings" saga.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 1998
In the eighth volume of The History of Middle Earth Christopher Tolkien shows us his father's next step in the preparation of LOTR. In this edition many of tbe central themes to the story as it was published came int being, such as the palantir and the addition of Faramir. This book takes us from the destruction of Isengard to the Lords of the West marching on Mordor. We are also once again treated to sketches and maps of such places as Orthanc, Dunharrow, and Minas Tirith. I recommend this book to all Tolkien fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2004
I've already written more detailed reviews of "The Return of the Shadow" and "The Treason of Isengard" so I won't rehash what I wrote earlier. All I will say is that if you are as much interested in J. R. R. Tolkien's creation of Middle Earth as in "The Lord of the Rings" as finished product you must read the works in Christopher Tolkien's "History of the Lord of the Rings" series. Kudos to Mr. Tolkien for taking the time and effort to help us understand the magnitude of his father's creative effort.
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on June 24, 2014
Like its predecessors, this book presents readers with an in-depth look at the developments and processes that went into the writing of the Lord of the Rings. This time around, the material covers the story’s evolution from Helm’s Deep to the Morannon, and book 4 of “The Two Towers.”

Tolkien’s drafts, together with his son’s commentaries, show that he foresaw some elements of his story quite clearly from the beginning, while others evolved as he wrote or appeared unexpectedly. He said that the story wrote itself once he got going, but certain parts of the narrative confounded him, and the multiple versions presented speak to his struggle to find a satisfactory presentation.

Throughout the writing of LotR, which spanned years and included more than one significant break (this book includes the break from 1944 to 1946), Tolkien took great pains to make sure the timelines for different story threads all matched up. He revised maps and distances to accurately reflect each other and to coordinate with the timeline. He even carefully recorded moon phases and their dates, although this meticulousness did not extend to accurately describing the rise and set times appropriate to each phase.

What I found most fascinating were the rejected possibilities for several characters and situations. The alternate realities that might have been for Eowyn, Denethor, and even the Chief Nazgul raise intriguing questions as to how the story might have gone if Tolkien had chosen differently. Most of these alternatives show up in the second half of the book. The first half, I must confess, bored me. The essential elements of the published story were in place (although Helm’s Deep was a considerably simpler battle), so the drafts mostly concerned adjustments in description, who said what and when, and chronology. We also get Tolkien’s various sketches of Orthanc and early maps in this first half of the book.

“The War of the Ring” shows us a creative process that at times was both effortlessly inspired and frustratingly elusive. Tolkien’s perseverance through the conundrums and openness to unexpected characters and developments stir greater appreciation not only for LotR, but for the works of other authors who may have faced similar challenges.
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on September 2, 2014
Part 3 of "The History of the Lord of the Rings" ("The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 8), from "The Destruction of Isengard" to "The Black Gate Opens." This is NOT a backstory to the narrative. More accurately, this is a history of the writing of the trilogy itself. In the Foreword to the 1965 edition of LOTR, Tolkien acknowledged that after the first publication, he re-wrote the books, making numerous changes & corrections. We can be grateful that he did so. This book comprises a number of earlier versions derived from Tolkien's (not always entirely legible, let alone sequentially organized) manuscripts, with plenty of editorial notes & commentary by Christopher Tolkien. It's interesting to learn that Christopher was able to date one of the his father's manuscripts by virtue of the fact that it was written on the back of a thesis submitted from an American applicant to one of Professor Tolkien's colleagues (paper being in extremely short supply in Britain in the early years of WWII). It's also a relief to LOTR fans to see how much truly awful dialogue & extraneous plot material was cut from the final version. Includes some of Tolkien's hand-drawn maps, & enables the reader to appreciate the enormous amount of work that Christopher has done in deciphering his father's handwriting. This "History" series is strictly for devoted Tolkien fans interested in seeing the author at work, or perhaps for anyone who wants to learn how a pretty good story becomes a great one.
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VINE VOICEon February 12, 2012
Yet another volume of Christopher Tolkien going through his father's notes to give readers a glimpse of the making of "The Lord of the Rings." "The War of the Ring" lacks the stunning revelations of the first two volumes and ends on a bit of a sour note--why the blazes did he have to yet another, much shorter volume after this? "The War of the Ring" takes readers from the fall of Saruman to the meeting in front of the Black Gate between Gandalf and Aragorn and the Mouth of Sauron. There are some interesting notes--the development of Faramir and Stewarts of Gondor, Tolkien considered killing off Eowyn, the Mouth of Sauron could have been a Nazgul--but frankly the notes are not as interesting as they are in the first two volumes while Tolkien was still finding his way.

Tolkien fans and writers looking to understand his creative process will find this book useful but not enjoyable. Still, Christopher Tolkien does not fall into an editing trap that often ensnares him--and the book is nowhere near as repetitive as some of the other books he complied from his father's notes.
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