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What chapters from The History of Middle-earth should I read?

Marcus Håkansson

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I have read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, I am currently reading Unfinished Tales and I plan to read the three Great Tales books. I also plan to read some selected parts of The History of Middle-earth. I'm not that interested in earlier versions of stories published elsewhere, or collections of information that mainly summarise information from other books. What I'm looking for is the most final versions of stories and collections of information that aren't included in other works or greatly expand upon what is included in other works (similar to the content of Unfinished Tales). In any case, I will borrow the books from a library so I will not buy any of them.
 

Alcuin

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Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
Welcome to TTF, Marcus Håkansson!

My recommendations would be these, since they seem to me foundations for understanding the completed corpus published during Tolkien’s lifetime:

Sauron Defeated
  • “Epilogue”. The original, touching ending to Lord of the Rings. Someone, possibly CS Lewis, objected to it, and Tolkien dropped it, ending the story with Sam’s return home to Rose and baby Elanor.
  • “The Drowning Of Anadûnê”. The Downfall of Númenor in three versions: and Elvish version tainted by Mannish tradition, a purely Mannish version, and a mix of the two in between. Must-reading if you’re interested in Númenor and its end.
There is a long essay, “The Notion Club Papers”, the sketch of Tolkien’s unfinished part of his trilogy he agreed to write as a companion to CS Lewis’s trilogy Out of the Silent Planet, That Hideous Strength, and Perelandra (Voyage to Venus). Many of the same characters – and places! – appear in both Tolkien’s and Lewis’s work, but Tolkien’s was neither completed nor published until Christopher Tolkien published thi volume.

Morgoth’s Ring
  • “Laws and Customs among the Eldar”. Boring in places, but a good rendition of Tolkien’s view of Elvish marriage and life
  • “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” and “Tale of Adanel”. The interplay between Finrod and Andreth, of whom he is clearly very fond (she is his brother’s mortal lover: the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife!) – is interesting in itself: I weep for Andreth. But the story gives insight into the differing views and fates of Men and Elves. The “Tale of Adanel” is the story of the Fall of Man in Tolkien’s mythos.
  • “Myths Transformed”. This incldues the seminal essay on the motives driving Morgoth and Sauron.
The book also contains chronologies and editions of chronologies: there are lots of these in HoME.

War of the Jewels
  • “The Later Quenta Silmarillion”. The coming of Men, the Siege of Angband, Turgon and Gondolin, the origin of the Dwarves, the migration of the Edain and the Fall of Fingolfin. Most of these are in easily readable format, with more detail and background than what’s in The Silmarillion, though less polished.
  • “The Wanderings of Húrin”. The tremendously sad tale of Húrin after Morgoth released him, including the death and burial of Morwen, reunited with Húrin at the grave of their son; the fall of the Second House of the Edain and the horrific role Húrin played.
  • “Maeglin”. If you’re interesting the Fall of Gondolin and the complex character behind it, Maeglin.
  • “Of Ents and Eagles”. Is Yavanna really concerned Aulë’s Dwarves will chop down all her trees, or just jealous of him? =)
  • “Quendi and Eldar”. The origin story of the Elves in several versions.
The volume includes more chronologies at the beginning and the end.

Peoples of Middle-earth
  • Work on the Appendices, including detailed notes on the Númenórean Kings in Exile, the Stewards, and the Princes of Dol Amroth. Of particular note is work on “The Akallabêth”.
  • “Of Dwarves and Men”. More on their history and interactions, especially the relationship of their languages.
  • “Shibboleth of Fëanor”. Fëanor and his deteriorating relationship with his brethren, focused on the right pronunciation of his mother’s name, a particularly sensitive topic for him.
  • “Last Writings”. “Glorfindel” identified Glorfindel of Rivendell with Glorfindel of Gondolin. “The Five Wizards” is more information on the Istari. “Círdan” is about Círdan the Shipwright.
  • “Dangweth Pengoloð”. “The Answer of Pengoloð” or “Thus said Pengoloð.” Pengoloð was an Elven historian and scholar originally from Eregion who left Middle-earth for Eldamar after the War of the Elves and Sauron. On the way, he stopped and sojourned with the Númenóreans for about 120 years, and they learned much of the history of the Elves from him.
  • “Of Lembas”.
  • “The New Shadow” is about “boys playing as orcs”. Uncompleted.
  • “Tal-Elmar” is about a young man in Second Age Middle-earth, the son of a man of the darkness and a kidnapped Númenórean, rescued by Númenórean sailors in what will later become the hill coentry of Gondor. Uncompleted.

Those would be my suggestions. Galin will have more: his interests lie particularly in Tolkien’s languages, and he can guide you in those. Others enjoy the older stories in The Book of Lost Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, or The Lost Road. The History of the Lord of the Rings in several volumes is also of great interest; but the stories I outlined all cast more light on the material Tolkien published during his lifetime.
 

Elthir

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[snip] “Shibboleth of Fëanor”. Fëanor and his deteriorating relationship with his brethren, focused on the right pronunciation of his mother’s name, a particularly sensitive topic for him.
I'll only add that I agree with Feanor on the pronunciation: Miriel Þerinde

🐾
 

Inziladun

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Alcuin covered most of them. I would recommend:

The Book Of Lost Tales 1 - There are tales that include a few of the Valar which were not part of the Silmarillion. Such as Ómar the Vala of language; Makar and his sister Meássë, the warrior gods; Aluin the Vala of Time, and his three sons, that help to set the orbits of the Sun and Moon.
 

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