Required Reading For All Tolkien Fans
Because most Tolkien fans don't know about the Histories of Middle-earth, I've written up a list of Tolkien's books that Tolkien fans should have at hand.
The Hobbit: The jolly tale of a timid Hobbit who becomes brave and bold over the course of his adventures. Legolas fans listen up; part of his adventure is in Mirkwood with King Thranduil, Legolas's father. The answer to the question,
Can Elves get drunk? lies there.
The Lord of the Rings: The history of the One Ring and the people who set out to destroy it. This book pretty much sums up the third age. You get to meet fascinating characters, like Tom Bombadil, and explore incredible amounts of land, as well as get tantalizing little bits of the turbulent past of Middle-earth.
The Silmarillion: The history of the entire world that Middle-earth is in the middle of. This book answers the questions that were raised in The Lord of the Rings, and you will learn the history of the Elves, dwarves, and men. These first three are the most well known and popular of Tolkien's work. The rest were put together by Tolkien's son from the massive collections of notes and unfinished essays he left behind.
Unfinished Tales: This book mostly concerns the history of men, but it also touches on the Elves living in Middle-earth. It also includes interesting information about Celeborn and Galadriel worth reading. The Wizards are also covered here.
The Children of Húrin: Referenced and catalogue in many of the Histories of Middle-earth, this is the full, story style retelling of "The Children of Húrin". Definately worth a gander.
The Book of Lost Tales, Part One: Contains early drafts of the beginning of the Silmarillion, much of which was written in the trenches of WWI. It contains an index of names, which is interesting for any aspiring Tolkien linguist.
The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two: Contains the early drafts of the end of the Silmarillion, much of which was written in the trenches of WWI. As in Part One, it contains an index of Elvish names.
The Lays of Beleriand: Anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings would notice the large quantities of poetry within them. This book is full of the most famous epics of Middle-earth: The Lay of the Children of Húrin, and The Lay of Leithian (about Lúthien and Beren), and a few unfinished ones besides.
The Shaping of Middle-earth: Never forget that Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon. He translated some of his work into Old English. This book is an interesting festival for any linguist. It also shows Tolkien's earliest draft of the Silmarillion, The Quenta (The history of the Noldor), an interesting bit of prose about the shape of the world called 'Ambarkanta', and finally, The Annals.
The Lost Road and Other Writings: This book is God's gift to Tolkien linguists. Within, it holds The Etymologies and The Lhammas (
Lhammas> is the Noldorin word for
history of language) of his Elvish languages. If you want to learn Elvish, this is a must-buy. Besides a linguistic feast, it holds drafts of The Fall of Númenor and more drafts of bits of the Silmarillion.
The Return of the Shadow: This book is no more than Tolkien's early drafts of The Fellowship of the Ring: a great read if you're interested in Tolkien's creative process.
The Treason of Isengard: This book is no more than Tolkien's early drafts of The Two Towers: a great read if you're interested in Tolkien's creative process.
The War of the Ring: This book is no more than Tolkien's early drafts of The Return of the King: a great read if you're interested in Tolkien's creative process.
Sauron Defeated: This book is the earlier drafts of the end of The Lord of the Rings, which holds a fantastic epilogue that Tolkien abandoned. The reason it is so wonderful is because of the King's Letter: a letter written in Elvish and in Tengwar! This book also contains The Notion Club Papers, which are basically discussions about the men of Middle-earth. If you are interested in Adûnaic, this book contains a summary of its grammar, as well as another draft of The Drowning of Anadûnê (The Fall of Númenor).
Morgoth's Ring: Elf lovers, this is the book for you! In this book, the Laws and Customs of the Eldar dwell, as well as extensive drafts of Elven history and an interesting discussion between an Elf-man named Finrod and a mortal maiden named Andreth about Elven 'immortality'. The discussion is called Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which literally translates as Finrod's Conversation with Andreth from Sindarin. Finally, it holds an outline of the Silmarillion's early history, called Myths Transformed, written late in Tolkien's life.
The War of the Jewels: This book mainly works with Dwarves, Men, and their history. Within, you will find The Tale of Years, a timeline of the events of Arda. Linguists, listen up! This book has a fantastic section that is almost as wonderful as The Etymologies, called Quendi and Eldar. It is an in-depth discussion about how a few words changed through the languages. This book is also a must have for any aspiring Tolkien linguist.
The Peoples of Middle-earth: This book mainly concerns the mortal races. The history of Men is detailed there, as well as an abandoned book that was to follow The Lord of the Rings: The New Shadow, early drafts of the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings, notes on Lembas, and more linguistic treasures- The Problem of Ros and Dangweth Pengoloð.
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien: Want into Tolkien's head? Read this! Basically, if you've thought of a question that you'd like to ask Tolkien, someone probably did in the past, and you'll find that letter in this book.