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on 17 May 2013
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!
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on 9 August 2017
another addition to my Tolkien library
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on 26 October 2012
The Peoples of Middle-earth, the final volume in the twelve volume series THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH, brings Christopher Tolkien's exhaustive exhumation of his father's corpus of unpublished rights to a close*. This book, like the preceeding eleven volumes, are highly detailed, filled with editorial commemtary, and not always the easiest of reading, especially for casual Tolkien fans.

In this volume there are several points of interest. When Tolkien said he could have had a fourth volume in LETTERS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN dedicated to the Appendices, this book proves him correct. This volume contains extra material on all of the various appendices, including "The Prolgoue, The Appendix on Languages, The Gamly Trees, The Callendears, The History of the Akallabeth, Th Tale of Years of the Second Age, Th Heirs of Elendi, The Tale of Years of the Third Age, and "The Making of Appendix A". Even when Tolkien was in the middle of composing THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the late 1930s and 1940s he actually did quite a bit of work on THE PROLOGUE.

Part II contains Of Dwarves and Men, The Shibboleth of Fëanor, The Problem of Ros, and Fglorfindel, along with segments of two different unpublished essays regarding Dwarven afterlife. The Shibboleth of Fëanor, written in either 1968 or later, deals with The Nolder's transition from þ to S in their language. Fëanor resisted this change due to the death of his late mother and resentment of his father's second wife. There is also information regarding Galadriel in this unfinished essay, detailing her relation with Fëanor and how she refused to accept the pardon of the Valar as the First Age drew to a close. In "The Problem of Ros" Tolkien seeks to explain how the ending suffix "Ros" developed in the Elven languages. "Of Dwarves and Men" details the two races' relationships to each other. Much of the history found in this work cannot be found elsewhere. The work is divided into three sections: I - Relations of the Longbeard Dwarves and Men, II - The Atani and their Langues - III - The Drueedain (Pukel Men), and then a fourth, untitled section that deals with what Faramir meant when in THE LORD OF THE RINGS when he was discussing the Men of Darkness, the High Men, and the Middle men.

Part III features two works from the 1950s - Of Lembas and Dangweth Pengoloð. Dangwerth Pengoloð deals with the linguist nature of the Elven tribes and is a meditation on language. Of Lembas deals with how Lembas is made, where it is grown. Originally Yavanna send Lembas with the Elves on their journey, and the Elves learned to make it themselves from a special type of corn. Only certain Elven women (these were called Yavannah maidens) were allowed to make the Lembas.

Part IV contains what is among the most interesting of Tolkien's unfinished projects - THE NEW SHADOW (a SEQUEL!!! to THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and TAL-ELMAR. THE NEW SHADOW opens after Aragon has died and a secret cult has shown up where boys are playing at being Orcs. Tolkien said he could have written about the discovery and overthrow of this cult but it would have been just a thriller and not worth doing. TAL-ELMAR deals with the Western men arriving in Numenor from the point of view of the Wild Men, and is unique in Tolkien's writings for viewing Numernor through the Wild Men's eyes.

The most valuable thing about the book is all the extra information we get regarding the Appendices and The Prologue, and finally given the chance to read Tolkien's aborted sequel to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE NEW SHADOW. Overall, a fitting swan song to Tolkien and a quite suitable ending to THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH. However, looking at the series, THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (published in 2007 by John Ratcliffe with Christopher's blessing) always struck me as quite the strange omission from the series.

*Although there were still miscellaneous pieces, and still are in fact, that are unpublished, like the 1924 story THE OROGAG, the 1940s SELLIC SPELL, the prose translation of BEOWULF, and numerous poetry including the BIMBLE BAY texts, and an estimated three thousand pages of linguistic material.
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on 30 December 2001
After the trials and tribulations which have produced 'The History of Middle-Earth' in 12 volumes over a decade and a half, JRR Tolkien's son has finally laid the series to rest with this volume. As such, it contains fragments of the whole in a fashion somewhat bizarre for the novice reader: ideally, you should come to the book after reading all the previous ones. The complexity reached by Tolkien pére with regard to the aesthetic, philosophical and even theological aspects of his mythology has been evident in the two previous volumes, concentrating on the latter day Quenta Silmarillion texts. 'The Peoples of Middle-Earth' finishes this line of argumentation, but the prime mover for purchasing the volume surely are the lengthy materials pertaining to the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings - quite a bit more enlightening than the amount which ended up in the book! There are also two abandoned stories from the Second and Fourth ages, making this the only volume of the 'History' spanning the entire mythological time frame. But the book is primarily to be enjoyed as an appendix itself to the other volumes - wherein lies its primary strength to the fan and the main drawback for the general public.
If only Cristopher Tolkien - or another designated editor - would come out with a similar set of books delineating the development of Tolkien's linguistic creations soon!
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on 6 December 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.


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."


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.


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.


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 detailed, day-by-day chronology Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

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


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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on 27 December 2001
Being the 12th volume of the History of Middle-Earth (HoME) this is an invaluable source of 1st-hand knowledge.
How did the Valar counted time? What were the relations between Dwarves and Men? How did human languages evolved in Middle-Earth?
These, and far more are answered here. For an avid Tolkien fan (like myself) this is a must-have.
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on 15 May 2016
Another great book in the Tolkien series
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on 12 January 2017
A must have for any serious Tolkien fan.
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on 19 January 2016
Amazing detail.
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