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Customer Review

on June 4, 2004
With this compilation of the mammoth HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH, we get the literary backstory, so to say, of J. R. R. Tolkien's turmoil and travails of the composition of one of the most complex fantasies every constructed. Admittedly difficult reading, you must have a deep, abiding interest in mythology and Tolkien's desire to create one to get through this, and you need a working knowledge of Tolkien's work to really understand the HISTORY. Do not buy this expecting anything as nearly accessible The Lord of the Rings or The Annotated Hobbit. The real meat, to literary historians who are not specialized in Tolkien and to the causal fan, is the volumes VI-IX, which deal with the creation of "The Lord of the Rings", one of the most significant volumes ever released the world, online with Homer, Virgil, and Dante. This is a graduate level look at what goes in the making of a literary masterpiece. These four volumes are The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 6),The Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 7),The War of the Ring: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Three (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 8), and SAURON DEFEATED Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 9), also available in its own set The History of the Lord of the Rings. The HISTORY operates as a chronicle of the evolutionary processes of one of the most ambitious literary projects of the 20th century.

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.
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