The History of Middle-earth

The History of Middle-earth is a 12-volume series of books published between 1983 and 1996 that collect and analyse much of Tolkien's legendarium, compiled and edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. The series shows the development over time of Tolkien's conception of Middle-earth as a fictional place with its own peoples, languages, and history, from his earliest notions of a "mythology for England" through to the development of the stories that make up The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. It is not a "history of Middle-earth" in the sense of being a chronicle of events in Middle-earth written from an in-universe perspective; it is instead an out-of-universe history of Tolkien's creative process. In 2000, the twelve volumes were republished in three limited edition omnibus volumes. Non-deluxe editions of the three volumes were published in 2002.[1]

The History of Middle-earth
The front cover of Volume 9
EditorChristopher Tolkien
AuthorJ. R. R. Tolkien
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreHigh fantasy
PublisherGeorge Allen & Unwin (UK)
Publication date
1983 to 1996
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Pages12 volumes
Preceded byThe Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays 
Followed byRoverandom 

Contents edit

Some of the content consists of earlier versions of already published works, while other portions are new material. These books are extremely detailed, often analysing a scrap of paper to provide the full evolution of two or even three different versions of a passage that were rewritten over each other. Despite the great amount of material in the twelve volumes, numerous unpublished texts are still known to exist in the Bodleian and Marquette University libraries, and in other papers held by individuals or organizations, such as the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship.

The first five books track the early history of The Silmarillion and related texts. Books six to nine discuss the development of The Lord of the Rings; book nine also discusses the Númenor story in the form of The Notion Club Papers. Books ten and eleven focus on material from the Silmarillion that Tolkien worked on after The Lord of the Rings was published, including the Annals of Beleriand and the Annals of Aman. Book twelve discusses the development of the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and examines assorted writings from the last years of Tolkien's life.

 The HobbitThe Lord of the RingsThe SilmarillionUnfinished TalesThe Annotated HobbitThe History of The HobbitThe History of The Lord of the RingsThe Lost Road and Other WritingsThe Notion Club PapersJ. R. R. Tolkien's explorations of time travelThe Book of Lost TalesThe Lays of BeleriandThe Shaping of Middle-earthThe Shaping of Middle-earthMorgoth's RingThe War of the JewelsThe History of Middle-earthNon-narrative elements in The Lord of the RingsLanguages constructed by J. R. R. TolkienTolkien's artworkTolkien's scriptsPoetry in The Lord of the Ringscommons:File:Tolkien's Legendarium.svg
Navigable diagram of Tolkien's legendarium. Most of it is in The History of Middle-earth, though that includes 4 volumes on The History of The Lord of the Rings.

Christopher Tolkien, who edited the books, made the decision not to include any material related to The Hobbit in The History of Middle-earth. His reasons for this were that it had not been intended to form part of the mythology, was a children's story, and had originally not been set in Middle-earth; it was revised during the writing of The Lord of the Rings. The History of The Hobbit was published separately, in two volumes, in 2007 and was edited by John D. Rateliff.

Volumes edit

The History of Middle-earth
  1. The Book of Lost Tales, Part I (1983)
  2. The Book of Lost Tales, Part II (1984)
  3. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
  4. The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986)
  5. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
    The History of The Lord of the Rings
  1. [1] The Return of the Shadow (1988)
  2. [2] The Treason of Isengard (1989)
  3. [3] The War of the Ring (1990)
  4. [4] Sauron Defeated (1992)
    The Later Silmarillion
  1. [1] Morgoth's Ring (1993)
  2. [2] The War of the Jewels (1994)
  1. The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996)

A combined index was published six years after the series was completed as The History of Middle-earth: Index (2002).

A shorter version of volume 9, omitting material not related to The Lord of the Rings, was published as The End of the Third Age; this is usually sold as a boxed set along with volumes 6, 7 and 8 as The History of the Lord of the Rings.

Reception edit

Charles Noad, reviewing The War of the Jewels in Mallorn, comments that the 12-volume History had done something that a putative single-volume edition of The Silmarillion (such as Tolkien had hoped to publish) with embedded commentary could not have achieved: it had changed people's perspective on Tolkien's Middle-earth writings, from being centred on The Lord of the Rings to what it had always been in Tolkien's mind: Silmarillion-centred.[2]

Reviewing The Peoples of Middle-earth, Noad adds that "The whole series of The History of Middle-earth is a tremendous achievement and makes a worthy and enduring testament to one man's creative endeavours and to another's explicatory devotion. It reveals far more about Tolkien's invented world than any of his readers in pre-Silmarillion days could ever have imagined or hoped for." He concludes that thorough study of the twelve volumes would be essential for understanding "Tolkien's imaginative art".[3]

References edit

  1. ^ "The History of Middle-earth". An Illustrated Tolkien Bibliography. 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  2. ^ Noad, Charles (1994). "[Untitled Review of The War of the Jewels]". Mallorn (31): 50–54. JSTOR 45320384.
  3. ^ Noad, Charles E. (1996). "[Untitled Review]". Mallorn (34): 33–41. JSTOR 45321696.

Further reading edit

External links edit