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This habit led to many great beginnings to work that never quite reached that status ...
on September 6, 2016
A man who is as thorough in his revisions as Tolkien was will inevitably leave behind tales that never quite reach that state of completion. It is no surprise that there are many stories from The Silmarillion that Tolkien attempted to expand upon and never quite reached the end. After all, he was notorious for not only going through a manuscript thoroughly to revise it if there was any indication of interest in publishing it, but he also would start at the beginning of a tale every time he picked it back up to work on it. This habit led to many great beginnings to work that never quite reached that status of being complete. And thus they find life in this publication, alongside various essays on topics such as the Istari and Palantiri, and that is a great thing for fans of Tolkien and of fantasy.
The collection in here ranges from fascinating narratives to a genealogical listing of the kings written in a style that you would expect to find within a history book. There are some items that will interest certain readers more than others, and the impulse of the reader may be to skip ahead to the things of interest and leave the others unread. Which, in many cases, would be to skip over all of the First Age and most of the Second Age stuff. That, I believe, would be a tragic mistake. The best of the tales appear in those two ages, being longer narratives that, while incomplete, give a flavor of the epic nature of the characters rooted in Middle-Earth history. Fans who have read The Silmarillion will certainly enjoy getting a deeper dive into the adventures of some of these familiar figures, such as Túrin Turambar, and even a reader who has not enjoyed The Silmarillion will still find much to enjoy in some of those tales. I'd argue that they are presented in a far more compelling manner than The Silmarillion, having more development and storytelling than appears in the other work.
All in all, this is a welcome piece to any Tolkien collection and an enjoyable group of stories and essays to read about Tolkien and his work. It would also appeal to any writers of fantasy to see some of how Tolkien worked, and the depth he put into fleshing out the history of the fictional world he created. I cannot recommend this book enough and know I will be diving back into this one as often as I will be The Silmarillion.