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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite part of 'The History of Middle-Earth', 30 Dec 2001
By 
Vladimir Cvetkovic Sever (Zagreb, Croatia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It is just two poems - unfinished - plus fragments of several more abandoned after a couple of pages, and loads of editorial info on top of that.
Yes, but - this is gorgeous writing. The pain of Túrin is as real and gripping as the 'Silmarillion' account was factual and distant, and the love of Beren and Lúthien shines with the power unrivalled in the rest of Tolkien's writing. And that's saying a lot! The unfinished aspect of the works just serves as a reminder of the difficulty with which work of this magnitude is achieved - as well as the fragility of creative impulse that sustains it.
Rather than despair over what is left unsaid, I find myself turning to this book more often than to 'The Lord of the Rings' - the power and the relative brevity (so that much can be ingested in one sitting - the verse is extremely readable) of the works make me fall instantly in love with them every time!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sad Loss..., 4 Aug 2003
By 
Jane Aland (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The Lays of Beleriand contains 2 partially completed verse tales, the 1st of which – ‘The Lay of the Children of Hurin’ is hampered by it’s reader unfriendly metre, and is no improvement on the prose version as already given in earlier volumes. In contrast ‘The Lay of Leithian’ is an excellent epic poem, and it’s a sad loss that this was never completed, as I feel this would ultimately have been one of Tolkiens most celebrated works. As usual there is a morass of needless editorial minutia concerning changing names, but due to the construction this can be readily skipped.
The ‘History of Middle Earth’ series of books often makes the mistake of presuming that every single unpublished scribbling by this great writer is worthy of publication, but this volume at least contains much that is of genuine quality.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We can only despair, that these poems were never finished, 13 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Lays of Beleriand comprises of two long poems. One of them is the alliterative poem Lay of the Children of Húrin, the second one is the octosyllabic poem Lay of Leithien, i.e the story of Beren and Lúthien). Both of them are a valuable addition for a Tolkien reader. There can be found many passages of immense beaty as well as some weaker ones, partly deriving from the fact, that the poems are unfinished and so we have only a glimpse of what could be, if Tolkien had the life-span of a true Dunedain.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most stunning pieces of Tolkiens work!, 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This is perhaps one of the greatest passages by Tolkien I have evere read. Though it is an ongoing poem, it is quite easy to read, and yet as power- and beautifull, as it gets. I recommendthis book to ANYONE who has read the Sillmarillion, I think it's save to say, that this poem is among the best ones, ever written in the English language.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for a fuller appreciation of Tolkien's poetic skills, 25 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lays of Beleriand (Histories of Middle-Earth) (Mass Market Paperback)
Tolkien outdid himself with these two long poems. Although never completed, these alliterative verse versions of the "Lay of the Children of Hurin" and "The Lay of Beren and Luthien" are vivid, thrilling and deeply moving. There is little different about these stories from their versions in The Silmarillion, but they are more detailed, and in VERSE. Not only do they make very enjoyable reading, but students of Old, Middle and Early Modern English poetry will be in awe of Tolkiens completely unaffected ability to render his story in alliterative verse, complete with caesura. I was very frustrated not to be able to read complete versions, but the lies of Delu Morgoth live even today, and the ends of these tales are lost in the mists of time...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overview of The History of Middle-earth Series, 6 Dec 2008
Collections of an author's work are often confusing, particularly when what the author has created is as complex as Tolkien's writings. Here's an overview of the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth, which was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. Hopefully, it will help you select which book or books to buy.

Keep something in mind. In the U.S. Houghton Mifflin publishes Tolkien's authorized works in hardback and trade paperback editions, while Ballantine Books publishes them as cheaper mass-market paperbacks. For some reason, Ballantine doesn't always make it clear that some of their titles are part of the same History of Middle-earth series as those published by Houghton Mifflin. If the title is the same, the content is the same. Which you buy depends on your taste in books and finances. I have copies of both.

GROUP ONE, VOLUMES I - V, EARLY TALES

These five volumes deal primarily with Tolkien's writings before the publication of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). In them, Tolkien was struggling as a still unknown author to create his first history of Middle-earth.

Vol 1 & 2, The Book of Lost Tales Part 1 ( 1983) & 2 (1984). The Book of Lost Tales was written during the 1910s and 1920s. Wikipedia describes it this way: "The framework for the book is that a mortal Man visits the Isle of Tol EressŽa where the Elves live. In the earlier versions of the `Lost Tales' this man is named Eriol, of some vague north European origin, but in later versions he becomes ∆lfwine, an Englishman of the Middle-ages."

Vol. 3, The Lays of Beleriand (1985). These are collections of poems, many of them incomplete, written between the 1920s and the late 1940s.

Vol 4, The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986). As you might guess by the title, in this book Christopher describes how his father shaped his vision of Middle-earth from the primitive The Book of Lost Tales to early versions of The Silmarillion. This theme is taken up again in volumes 10 and 11.

Vol 5. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987). Along with other writings this volume includes Tolkien's drafts of a tale about time travel. Wikipedia describes it this way: "The Lost Road itself is a fragmentary beginning of a tale, including a rough structure and several intiguing chunks of narrative, including four entire chapters dealing with modern England and Numenor, from which the entire story as it should have been can be glimpsed. The scheme was of time-travel by means of 'vision' or being mentally inserted into what had been, so as to actually re-experience that which had happened. In this way the tale links first to Saxon England of Alfred the Great, then to the Lombard Alboin of St. Benedict's time, the Baltic Sea in Old Norse days, Ireland at the time of the Tuatha's coming (600 years after the Flood), prehistoric North in the Ice Age, a 'Galdor story' of Third-Age Middle-Earth, and finally the Fall of Gil-Galad, before recounting the prime legend of the Downfall of Numenor/Atlantis and the Bending of the World. It harps on the theme of a 'straight road' into the West, now only in memory because the world is round."

GROUP TWO, VOLUMES VI - IX, LORD OF THE RINGS

If you or the friend you're buying for is primarily interested in the LOTR, then these four volumes are the books to have. Just keep in mind that you'll find in them many unfinished plots that may or may not fit well into LOTR. Tolkien was a perfectionist, always trying to improve plots and fill in details. These are his drafts.

Vol. 6, The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v. 1, 1988). Describes the initial stages of writing LOTR and covers the first three-fourths of The Fellowship of the Ring (until the Mines of Moria).

Vol. 7, The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 2, 1989). Covers from the Mines of Moria until Gandalf meets Théoden about one-fourth of the way into The Two Towers.

Vol. 8, The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 3, 1990). Continues the tale up to the opening of the Black Gate not quite three-quarters of the way through The Two Towers.

Vol. 9, Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings, v. 4, 1992). Completes the tale and includes an alternate ending in which Sam answers questions from his children. There is also a much shortened version of Vol. 9 called The End of the Third Age, which leaves out material that isn't related to LOTR.

GROUP THREE, VOLUMES X - XI, SILMARILLION

Just as The Hobbit created a public demand for more tales about hobbits, The Lord of the Rings created a demand for more tales about Middle-earth. To meet that demand, Tolkien struggled to reconcile and adapt many of his earlier tales to the historical framework made well-known by his two published works. He never completed those labors, so it was left after his death to his son Christopher to do so in The Silmarillion (1977). If you or a friend is interested in knowing more about The Silmarillion, these two volumes may be of interest.

Vol 10, Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion, v. 1, 1993). Contains material from earlier (1951 and later) drafts of The Silmarillion. Wikipedia notes that: "The title of this volume comes from a statement from one of the essays: 'Just as Sauron concentrated his power in the One Ring, Morgoth dispersed his power into the very matter of Arda, thus the whole of Middle-earth was Morgoth's Ring.'"

Vol. 11, The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v. 2, 1994). Addition material about the earlier drafts of The Silmarillion. Includes information about the origin of the Ents and Great Eagles.

GROUP FOUR, VOLUME XII AND INDEX, WRAP-UP

Vol. 12, The People's of Middle-earth (1996). Contains material that did not fit into the other volumes. The most interesting include additional appendices like those at the back of LOTR, essays on the races of Middle-earth, and about 30 pages of a sequel to the LOTR called The New Shadow. It was set a century after the LOTR. Tolkien abandoned the tale as too "sinister and depressing."

The History of Middle-earth Index (2002) is an index of all twelve volumes.

******

Keep in mind that books in The History of Middle-earth are nothing like reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. What J. R. R. Tolkien wrote is often fragmentary and unpolished rough drafts, while what Christopher wrote is literary scholarship, concerned more with sources and texts than plots. If you or the friend you are buying for is more interested in understanding LOTR better, you might be happier with a reference works such as:

Karen Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle-Earth (Revised Edition)

Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth

Or my own book-length, detailed, day-by-day chronology of The Lord of the Rings, Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

Places, terms and dates, together all three will give you a richer, deeper understanding of LOTR.

******

If you're interested in reading books with the same flavor as Tolkien, you might consider reading William Morris, a once well-known writer who influenced Tolkien. For tales like the warriors of Rohan, see his The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains. For arduous quest journeys much like Frodo and Sam's quest to be rid of the Ring, read his The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World's End. The four tales have been collected into two inexpensive volumes:

More to William Morris: Two Books that Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien-The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains

On the Lines of Morris' Romances: Two Books That Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien-The Wood Beyond the World and the Well at the World's End

NOTE: The individual volumes in the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth series are also published in three large 'Parts' in a series inconsistently titled either The Complete History of Middle-earth and The History of Middle-earth

Part 1 contains volumes I-V from the single-volume series.
Part 2 contains volumes VI to IX from the single-volume series.
Part 3 contains volumes X-XII from the single-volume series.

Which you might buy depends on your taste and how you plan to use the books. Would you rather have three bulky volumes of about 1500 pages each or twelve volumes that are typically 450 pages long?

******

I hope this helps you to select wisely based on your own interests. You can save some money by buying collections of The History of Middle-earth in multi-volume sets. You can also save by buying the Ballantine mass-market paperback instead of the Houghton Mifflin trade paperback edition, although the former may have smaller type and you may need to use both hands to keep it open while you read,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!, 25 Sep 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lays of Beleriand (Histories of Middle-Earth) (Mass Market Paperback)
Anything I say in this review could never do this book justice. Tolkien has done a wonderful job putting together these two long poems (The Lay of Leithian and The Lay of the Children of Hurin). Although neither of these poems was ever finished, it is their only flaw. The Lay of Lethian or perhaps better said as "The Gest of Beren One-hand and Luthien the Fay--Release From Bondage" is one of my favorite poems and anyone who loves rhyming couplets will really enjoy this poem. The Lay of the Children of Hurin is in an alliterative verse and occasionally makes for difficult reading, but it is still great all the same. I recommend this book to both Tolkien fans and poetry fans (especially Tennyson and Byron), I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great addition to an already large Tolkien library, 28 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lays of Beleriand (Histories of Middle-Earth) (Mass Market Paperback)
When I bought this book a few years ago, I thought it was an excellent resource for clarifying some points not covered in The Silmarillion. Tolkien was truly gifted .
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth, Book 3), 9 April 2013
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Bought this book for my son in law as a Christmas present, he loved it, and the price was right too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An extensive & remarkable insight into the creation of Middle-Earth, captured in this comprehensive volume of a series., 4 Dec 2012
This is the third volume within the collection of books that make up `the history of Middle-Earth' which delves into JRR Tolkien's great creation behind The Silmarillion, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. This fascinating, detailed insight delves into the mythology of his work, through the alliterative verse tales of two of the most significant and crucial stories in Tolkien's world; that being those of Turin and Luthien. Complete with poems such as the unpublished `lay of children of Hurin' that emphasizes the tragedy of Turin Turambar, together with the poignant and noteworthy `Lay of Lethian' which is the main source for Beren and Luthien in the Silmarillion, recounting the quest of the Silmaril and the encounter with Morgoth in his fortress. In addition to the poems is information about the evolution of the Elder days and an extra source in the form of notable criticism from friend and writer C.S Lewis who read the poem in 1929.

The Lays of Beleriand offers aficionados of JRR Tolkien's extensive works and mythology a glimpse into the otherwise understated metaphysics underlying his mythological invention, and the editorial complexities of the material which is thoroughly taken apart by Christopher Tolkien. This is a worthy and indispensable edition to any Tolkien collection and to the history of Middle-Earth, which goes beyond what you see and know delving even deeper by disclosing hidden secrets and fascinating facts that will amaze and delight. This fascinating study is something that those overwhelmed and impressed by this master of his craft who created something beyond genius, will devour in an instant and I guarantee you will find really inspiring as well. Creating the tales behind the one Ring was an astonishing feat alone, but Professor Tolkien brought into being an entire world ad society, which most authors of today can only aspire to dream of achieving; and in one persons lifetime it is unquestionably an astounding accomplishment.

Complete with pages from the original manuscript of `the lay of the children of Hurin' this is a fascinating and interesting study of such a work on an epic scale, which I urge fans of his books (such as the lord of the rings) to discover for it is so illuminating. I am constantly amazed and in awe of such a man who in his lifetime did so much that which has not only stood the test of time, but which will live on for so many years to come hence I like many authors of the fantasy genre will admit to owing him a lot.

A must have book for any JRR Tolkien collector, fan or even mythical devotee or historical study. His world-building and mythology is exceptional and remains incomparable, unmatched to any other writer.
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The Lays of Beleriand (Histories of Middle-Earth)
The Lays of Beleriand (Histories of Middle-Earth) by J. R. R. Tolkien (Mass Market Paperback - Oct 1994)
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