i am a fan and this is a biased review. if you are into tolkien's mythology, this series will come handy to enhance your knowledge and understanding of the history of the middle-earth - from silmarillion to the lord of the rings, and much more. a must have for any hardcore tolkien fan!
1. Two versions of the delightful Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings. This was the original ending of LotR, and remained so until an advanced stage in the book's production; and Tolkien seems always to have wished it had remained in place but was persuaded to delete it by some of his friends.
2. The Notion Club Papers - an extremely important unfinished novel by JRR Tolkien in a 'modern' setting but with much reference to space and time travel. This was written in the middle of composing the Lord of the Rings, so has Tolkien at the height of his powers. Also, there are many coded clues to Tolkien's own deepest, and secret, beliefs.
3. Several alternative version of the history of Numenor, with a lot of extra (and more vivid) detail than can be found in the LotR or Silmarillion.
Without exaggeration, and speaking as a long term Tolkien fan, this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.
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 Eressëa 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 Ælfwine, 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, THE 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:
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:
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.
The title of this book should say it all. Certainly a book designed for die-hard Tolkien fans, 'Sauron Defeated' hardly represents interesting reading for people unfamiliar with the Lord of the Rings series. That said, the thick volume is still essential for anyone who has read the previous three chapters of the History. Although some parts of 'Sauron Defeated' are better off left out in its next edition, it presents enough interesting information in its 482 pages to make it a worthwhile (not to mention impressive) presence in your Tolkien library.
The good thing about this book is that it explains a lot about the lord of the rings and middle earth that isn't explained else where. It has a lot of detail and has a whole section of the book about another story that had been started by J R R Tolkien but unfortunately had to be finally edited by Christopher Tolkein.
Saruon Defeated is the ninth book within the extensive published works on the history of Middle-Earth, which is compiled by Christopher Tolkien and explored at length JRR Tolkien's masterful creation. The epic scope of the mythology that he created, those memorable events that we shall never forget and how he crafted his work within our own historical timeline never fails to neither astound me nor leave me in awe of his achievements. There is so much more depth behind the stories that we cherish and love (such as The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit), and which can be partially discovered within the history of how it all came into being.
In the first section Christopher Tolkien completes his lengthy, fascinating study of the Lord of the Rings, beginning with Sam rescuing Frodo when he is held captive by the enemy in the tower of Cirith Ungol. It also gives a very different insight into the Scouring of the Shire and ends with the Epilogue that was never published - in which Sam attempts to answer his children's questions when Bilbo and Frodo have departed from the Grey Havens. In the second section of the book, is an edition of the `Notion club papers' which are now published for the first time. These mysterious papers discovered in the early years of the twenty-first century report the discussions of an Oxford club in 1986 and 1987, in which subject matter turns to the legends of Atlantis amongst other interesting topics. There is also a new version of the `drowning of Anadûnê (continuing into the third part of this book). At this time the language of the men of the West, Adûnaic, was first devised and the book concludes with an account of its structure provided by Arundel Lowdham (a member of the Notion club, who learned it in his dreams).
For anyone wishing to learn more about JRR Tolkien's epic creation and the stories, the inspiration and the detailed, extensive history behind Middle-Earth I highly recommend that you read this series of books that explore and reveal so much. Fascinating, intriguing and really interesting I completely lost myself within this book (similarly to the rest of the history), and find that they add so much depth to Tolkien's work. Complete with photographs of original illustrations and writing, and index's this comprehensive guide is a must-read for any fan, devoted follower of Tolkien and those wishing to study more in-length his creation.
I am extrimly glad i got this book wich gives ( as it's former 11) un exslent look in to Tolkiens work , but this book will give you more with it's unpablished ending and the "nation club "papers on atlantis and time trveling , a real insight into Tolkien .just rimmber this is a colection of unpablished work not a story ( wich is why i gave it a4 and not 5 ).