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The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5 Mass Market Paperback – Box set, August 26, 2003
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The evolving backdrop of stories about Elves, Men, and the rich tapestry of fictional history is shown here, such as earlier versions of the legendary romance of Beren and Luthien, or the history of the Valar. Not the finished product of "Silmarillion," but older drafts riddled with footnotes and commentary from Tolkien's son Christopher. What's more, it includes linguistic evolution, exquisite poetry, and a time travel story that evolved into something much greater.
It takes a certain amount of geeky dedication to read these books. They are not light reading, and it takes knowledge of the final material to understand their significance. In many of the stories, there is greater detail than is found in the Silmarillion. And in many cases, there are huge differences, such as the mortal Beren originally being an Elf. (Which changes the whole story of Beren and Luthien, and also how we see their distant descendants, Aragorn and Arwen)
Fans of "Lord of the Rings" and "Silmarillion" will undoubtedly enjoy seeing how the unrivalled fantasy stories came to be. Not for newbies, but fascinating for major fans and anyone who likes seeing how Tolkien's writing evolved.
Gathering the first five volumes, this box set covers Tolkien's mythology from the earliest written texts (the first two volumes) to the mid 1930s, before Tolkien set aside THE SILMARILLION to begin work on his epic novel, THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
The first two volumes deal with the earliest form of THE SILMARILLION. In many ways, startlingly different than the forms the legends finally found themselves in the published work. The prose is work-man-like, and a far cry from the more accomplished writings of the later volumes. Most interesting is in the original form Beren was an elf, which totally changes a massive strand in the mythology. The next are the epic The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 3) First edition by Tolkien, J.R.R. published by Houghton Mifflin Hardcover that were never completed, and showing Tolkien was a poet of very accomplished calibre. By J.R.R. Tolkien: The Shaping of Middle-Earth: The Quenta, the Ambarkanta and the Annals (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 4) deals with the geography and physical history and includes some historical Annals. The Lost Road and Other Writings: Language and Legend before the Lord of the Rings shows us an unfinished novel and several other unearthed treasures, including invaluable philological material that shows how inseperable Tolkien's linguistics was from his creative writing.
This publication is for the serious student and lover of J. R. R. Tolkien's work. The causal fan will find this much too expensive and much too expansive. For those only marginally interested the volumes dealing with THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy novel should be looked at. But those who love Middle-earth and want to marvel at Tolkien's work, this is a must-have purchase. It's a very rare opportunity to see the creation of a work of such massive import to our international societies. Tolkien's commitment to this birthing process of a beautiful work of art truly stands out as one of the great efforts of Man to give homage to his God, as Tolkien saw it (read his essay on Faerie Stories), and I see it as well. Get it and become immersed - though beware this detailing the construction of this elaborate universe, which means these are rough drafts and various other things that didn't make it into publication in Tolkien's time, adding a huge amount of material to Tolkien's fandom to consider. Christopher's editorial notes are a must have. Thanks to the Tolkien family and to Christopher for their support of their father (who died in 1973) and of his son for the publication of this work. A very unique moment in literary history indeed.
"The Histories of Middle-Earth" is an invaluable collection for anyone who would know the process behind the creation of a literary world as vast as Tolkien's. For someone who has read "The Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit," and "The Silmarillion" (I recommend also reading "The Unfinished Tales" first) and is interested in knowing more about the origins of Middle-Earth and Valinor, these volumes are fascinating. For someone who simply loves the story of LOTR and sees the greater history of Middle Earth as nothing more than a setting, these books probably aren't for you. Hence the four stars rather than five.