J.R.R. Tolkien stories are set in the world of fairytale with intricate tales of exciting heroic fantasy. This week we are shining the light on this beloved author and are sharing our six favourite Tolkien books (with a few fabulous collector editions).
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 and spent his childhood in the English countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his detailed illustrations.
His mother died when he was twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward’s School in Birmingham, where Tolkien shone in his classical work. After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married, fought in the battle of the Somme and then began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called The Book of Lost Tales but which eventually became known as The Silmarillion.
Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of The Hobbit. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to The Hobbit and gradually Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, an epic tale that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife’s death in 1971. He died in 1973 leaving The Silmarillion to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.
Okay, so we know that The Lord of the Rings is actually three books, but they are just so good that we overlooked this minor detail.
Since it was first published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings has been a book people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, its sweeping fantasy and epic adventure has touched the hearts of young and old alike. Over 150 million copies of its many editions have been sold around the world, and occasional collectors’ editions become prized and valuable items of publishing. This one-volume hardback edition contains the complete text, fully corrected and reset, which is printed in red and black and features, for the very first time, thirty colour illustrations, maps and sketches drawn by Tolkien himself as he composed this epic work. These include the pages from the Book of Mazarbul, marvellous facsimiles created by Tolkien to accompany the famous ‘Bridge of Khazad-dum’ chapter. Also appearing are two removable fold-out maps drawn by Christopher Tolkien revealing all the detail of Middle-earth. Sympathetically packaged to reflect the classic look of the first edition, this new edition of the bestselling hardback will prove irresistible to collectors and new fans alike.
The Hobbit is one of the world’s most popular classic stories, appealing to adults as much as to the children for whom J.R.R. Tolkien first wrote the book. Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.
The Hobbit became an instant success when it was first published in 1937, and more than 60 years later Tolkien’s epic tale of elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins, myth, magic and adventure, with its reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins, has lost none of its appeal.
Now, the classic hardback edition is available once again, featuring the distinctive cover illustration painted by Tolkien himself.
The Silmarillion takes fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deeper into the myths and legends of Middle-Earth. The Silmarillion is an account of the Elder Days, of the First Age of Tolkien’s world. It is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back, and in whose events some of them such as Elrond and Galadriel took part. The tales of The Silmarillion are set in an age when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-Earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, the jewels containing the pure light of Valinor. Included in the book are several shorter works. The Ainulindale is a myth of the Creation and in the Valaquenta the nature and powers of each of the gods is described. The Akallabeth recounts the downfall of the great island kingdom of Númenor at the end of the Second Age and Of the Rings of Power tells of the great events at the end of the Third Age, as narrated in The Lord of the Rings. This pivotal work features the revised, corrected text and includes, by way of an introduction, a fascinating letter written by Tolkien in 1951 in which he gives a full explanation of how he conceived the early Ages of Middle-Earth.
Yep, we may have stretched the definition of book again. This special collector’s edition features all 12 parts of the series bound in three volumes. Each book includes a silk ribbon marker and is quarter-bound in black, with grey boards stamped in gold foil, and the set is presented in a matching black slipcase.
While J.R.R. Tolkien is famous the world over for his unique literary creation, exemplified in the titles we mentioned above, what is less well known is that he also produced a vast amount of further material that greatly expands upon the mythology and numerous stories of Middle-Earth, and which gives added life to the thousand-year war between the Elves and the evil spirit Morgoth, and his terrifying lieutenant, Sauron.
It was to this enormous task of literary construction that Tolkien’s youngest son and literary heir, Christopher, applied himself to produce the monumental and endlessly fascinating series of twelve books, The History of Middle-Earth.
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts, this is the first complete, standalone Middle-earth book by J.R.R. Tolkien since The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is a legendary time long before The Lord of the Rings, and Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwells in the vast fortress of Angband in the North; and within the shadow of the fear of Angband, and the war waged by Morgoth against the Elves, the fates of Turin and his sister Nienor will be tragically entwined. Their brief and passionate lives are dominated by the elemental hatred that Morgoth bears them as the children of Hurin, the man who dared to defy him to his face. Against them Morgoth sends his most formidable servant, Glaurung, a powerful spirit in the form of a huge wingless dragon of fire, in an attempt to fulfil the curse of Morgoth, and destroy the children of Hurin. Begun by J.R.R., Tolkien at the end of the First World War, the Children of Hurin became the dominant story in his later work on Middle-earth. But he could not bring it to a final and finished form. In this book Christopher Tolkien has constructed, after long study of the manuscripts, a coherent narrative without any editorial invention.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Unfinished Tales” is a collection ranging from the time of ”The Silmarillion” the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring in ”The Lord of the Rings”. Its many treasures include Gandalf’s lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End, the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand, and a description of the military organisation of the Riders of Rohan.
Lovers of Tolkien’s mythology will also be fascinated to read the only story from the long ages of Numenor before its downfall, and all that is known of such matters as the Five Wizards, the Palantiri, and the legend of Amroth.
The collection has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, who provides a commentary placing each of the Tales in the context of his father’s work.
Let us know in the comments below which Tolkien story is your favourite.