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5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkienian Archaeology, 10 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Book of Lost Tales 1 (The History of Middle-earth, Book 1): Pt. 1 (Kindle Edition)
1st volume of two 'archaeological' exploration of JRRT's mythology, conducted by his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien.
For the hard core Tolkienian this and its companion volume are ESSENTIAL reading. They give an insight unavailable elsewhere into the early prehistory of what would become the published Tolkien mythos, and an insight that is nothing short of riveting into the evolution of a 'sub-creative' imagination like no other.
Here, you will find early versions of stories later published in almost unrecognisably different forms; nomenclature abandoned by JRRT long before any of his works saw the light of day, yet which gives vital clues to the genesis of the world of Arda and Valinor; and clues to the evolution of his Elvish languages - not originally Quenya and Sindarin, but Qenya and ... Gnomish.
Yes, the Noldor were Gnomes once. Perhaps it is as well that JRRT abandoned this term, but the Noldor remained spirits of Earth, manipulators of the physical elements, in the published works, so it is not irrelevant even to one who is only interested in the later redaction.
Readers who have only encountered the original five volumes (Hobbit - LOTR - Silmarillion) may be in for some shocks, and may even be distressed by some elements. For instance, it's evident from material in the Books of Lost Tales that Tolkien did not merely dislike cats, he really did hate them; the prototype of Sauron was a cat-lord. He came distressingly close to calling the Queen of Doriath 'Wendolene', before deciding that her name was in fact Melian. And, perhaps most disturbing of all (to me), Eriador used to be called Aryador.
Think about it.
But in making such comments, one has to remember that most of these tales were written, in the forms they take in these volumes, during and not long after the First World War. Tolkien was a very young man; some of these sketches might indeed be designated 'juvenilia'. But all are fascinating, essential components of his development as a writer and a 'sub-creator'.
If you are prepared to discover just how jejune Tolkien could be in his early years, and to regard these volumes as what they are meant to be, explorations of the development of a writer's mind, then please, please buy them. The insight they provide into the background to the Tolkien Mythos is unparalleled. If you'd rather restrict yourself to the output of the mature Tolkien (and *certainly*, if you expect these volumes to be some kind of continuation or expansion of the 5 major Middle-Earth related works), then please, please look elsewhere. That is not what the Books of Lost Tales are about.

5 stars for sheer interest and Tolkien-nerd satisfaction; if I was judging this simply on literary merit it would be about 2 1/2, but as stated, that is not what these volumes are about.

A note: I bought the Kindle edition, and am glad I did, it meets my needs and was inexpensive. I also hoped to be able to buy Kindle editions of other volumes of the History of Middle-Earth series - but for some incomprehensible reason most of them (other exceptions are Unfinished Tales and the Narn i Hin Hurin) are flagged as being available for Kindle in ... 2019! So be warned. If you really want to read all 12 volumes of the Christopher Tolkien edited History, and you will only buy Kindle editions, you are going to have to wait.
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