Another "new" Tolkien book

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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I did! I did! I've glanced through it and some of the artwork is great, but otherwise I haven't seen enough to form any further opinions.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Eldy »

I definitely look forward to seeing the rest of the illustrations, hopefully tomorrow. :)
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Eldy »

So I stopped by the bookstore I used to work in to take a look through The Fall of Númenor this afternoon. The format of the book is as discussed on the last page of this thread, so no surprises there. The first thing I did was look at all of the Alan Lee color illustrations, which were nice, but as a big Second Age fangirl I was most interested in the text. And ... I don't want to be an asshole, but, to put it lightly, I'm not a fan. The "About This Book" introduction says this volume's purpose is to "provide extracts—with as few editorial interventions as possible—that illustrate in the author's own words the rich and tumultuous events of the Second Age as summarised [in] Appendix B" of LOTR. Sibley accomplishes that, but in focusing so strictly on fleshing out the Tale of Years, he jettisons much of the richness of the Second Age.

This is most egregious in the case of Aldarion and Erendis. On the one hand, I suppose I should be grateful that so much of the work was included, since it doesn't show up in Appendix B at all. But by presenting only excerpts, chopped up and separated by other material covering different events from the same time span, you lose the impression of the work as the closest thing to a Second Age novel there is. My objection here is primarily a matter of principle, since I dislike the Second Age being treated merely as fodder for backstory, but I think it results in a lessened reading experience, too. For example, the first several paragraphs of A&E are chopped off, which saves about a page worth of space, but at the cost of a naturally flowing introduction to the work. One of the first things we learn of Aldarion is that he disliked "the north country" of Númenor, a revelation that has no relevance to anything without the elided statement that Aldarion's father spent much of his time in the Forostar (and, implicitly, brought his young son with him).

Is this information essential to our understanding of Aldarion? No, of course not. But trimming non-essential information creates a reading experience more akin to an "explainer" blog post of the Second Age than a work of narrative fiction. Sibley is upfront in the introduction that "the definitive presentation of J.R.R. Tolkien's writings" is found in the Christopher-edited volumes, but there was no need to structure the entire book around the Tale of Years. Sibley did, in fact, include one major text outside this framework: "the Númenórean chapters" of The Lost Road, which appear in an appendix (sadly, The Drowning of Anadûnê does not make an appearance). But this appears to be more because of that work's non-continuity with TS and UT than a desire to showcase Tolkien's storytelling abilities without interruption. Which is ironic, considering that non-interruption of the text is supposedly one of this book's main selling points.

I can't give a full assessment of Sibley's commentary since I only glanced through portions of the book, but I wasn't impressed by what I saw. Then again, I'm also not the target audience: this is not a book for the sort of people who chafe against the description of "Tar-Calion" as Ar-Pharazôn's "Númenórean name." And that's fine! As I said upthread, I'll be glad if this book succeeds at bringing more attention to the Second Age. I said the same thing about the 2010s editions of Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin, which I also didn't buy, though it's not clear to me that they actually did bring more attention to those works. (Anecdotally, I have a lot of friends and fandom acquaintances who like LOTR but have never read any of Tolkien's posthumous works, or else only The Silmarillion, and I've never heard any of them mention reading the standalone editions of the Great Tales. I obviously can't say how common this truly is.) But I don't want to begrudge anyone their enjoyment of this volume if they do get something out of it.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

LOL, you've looked at more closely than I have, and I own it!

I have a feeling, however, that my opinion won't be that different than yours, though I think I am more of a fan of Christopher's editions of Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin than you are. To quote what I just wrote in an email to a well-known Tolkien scholar:
My initial impression is that the attempt to use the Tale of Years as the chapter headings and cut and paste from different works and place them roughly chronologically results in an incoherent mess that fails to succed either as a continuous narrative a la The Children of Húrin or as a scholarly portrait of the history of a particular part of the legendarium, a la Beren and Lúthien or The Fall of Gondolin. I'm sure that there are worthy successors to Christopher that could have been tapped to follow his work; instead we got this.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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Yeah, I think that's fair. :P

Despite the natural comparisons to Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin, which I've made as much as anyone else, this is a very different sort of book. It's not about tracing the evolution of the Second Age, but about presenting something that can be read as more or less in continuity with LOTR and the 1977 Silmarillion. That's not an illegitimate goal, but as you note it's strange that effort was not put into making this more narratively coherent. Surely the goal of gathering all this material in a single volume for ease of reference need not preclude letting the texts themselves stand as is. I find Unfinished Tales more accessible, not less, for presenting the Description, Aldarion and Erendis, and The Line of Elros in their own chapters rather than mushed together. It actually makes it easier to locate biographical or other information you might have forgotten, because it's all gathered together in relatively short texts, and it means you're not continuously jolted out of the actual stories by cutaways.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/ ... of-fantasy
Narrative flow is halting at times because The Fall of Númenor uses the chronology at the back of The Lord of the Rings as its structuring framework. But this book could show the Folio Society a thing or two. Veteran Middle-earth illustrator Alan Lee provides a dozen powerful paintings inside, and a generous scattering of exquisite pencil sketches. His figures live; the architecture of his towers and temples forms a kind of running commentary; even his frames are fascinating. His cover is an apocalyptic panorama as terrifying as any John Martin painting.

Physically beautiful and sometimes overwhelming in its power, this book is a grand compendium of all Tolkien said about the period when the foundations of The Lord of the Rings are laid – the era that Amazon attempts to dramatise in The Rings of Power.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Jude »

From that quote, it sounds like it may be worth it for the illustrations, even if you don't like the narrative.

Voronwë, have you had a chance to form more opinions?
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

No, but here is a very positive review in the Guardian from John Garth.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/ ... are_btn_fb
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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I think thats the same review I shared above V
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Jude »

Neither of the links work. Is there more to read besides what you quoted?
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Sorry, Al. I don't know why I missed that.

Jude, I think the rest of the review is more positive than that quote. I'll see if I can get a link that works.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a contender for the biggest TV event this year, and the show’s estimated 100 million-strong audience represents a huge number of potential new readers. This book covers the same fictional period in Middle-earth history, the Second Age. If you want the genuine Tolkien version of the era, here it is in one rather beautiful package. And it could also be the palate cleanser you crave if you disliked the show and prefer to go back to the authentic flavour of Middle-earth and the doomed island nation of Númenor.

“Go back” is right. The book marshals material hitherto scattered through many posthumous publications from 1977’s The Silmarillion onwards. In this, it broadly follows recent editions by Tolkien’s son Christopher, who died in 2020. Editor Brian Sibley made the superb 1981 BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and knows his Tolkien. Ending long before that story of questing hobbits, the Second Age runs from the end of the mythological Silmarillion and the defeat of primal dark lord Morgoth to the epochal but temporary defeat of his successor Sauron. That’s three-and-a-half millennia.

So The Fall of Númenor is not a single story. Mostly it interweaves complex events and motives into what Tolkien called “feigned history”. Immortals such as Sauron and the elf-queen Galadriel crop up throughout, but most of the mortal players rise and return to dust in a page or two. Yet this is a literary strength, because mortality itself is the undertow drawing Númenor slowly but inexorably towards disaster.

An opening survey of the land and its denizens is best read for its sheer delight in world-building, of which Tolkien remains the acknowledged master. Created as a reward for mortals who helped defeat Morgoth, Tolkien’s Númenor owes much to Thomas More’s Utopia. To the happy Númenoreans, “all things, including the Sea, were friendly”. Bears dance for sheer pleasure; the fox leaves the hens alone; hunters hunt only at need.

The second act is a novelette, a take on the Norse myth of Njord and Skadi. Tar-Aldarion, seafaring heir to Númenor’s sceptre, courts and weds the wilful land-lover Erendis. If there is anyone still convinced that Tolkien wrote only for adolescent boys (a common criticism at one time), this tale should give them pause. With its sharp social observation and trenchant dialogue, it could almost have been written by Ursula K Le Guin. Erendis skewers male privilege brilliantly: Númenor’s men only show anger, she observes, “when they become aware, suddenly, that there are other wills in the world beside their own”. And she urges her daughter: “Do not bend … bend a little, and they will bend you further until you are bowed down.” But, denied almost all agency by an overwhelming patriarchy, Erendis has to choose between royal servitude and bitter isolation. In his self-indulgent voyaging, her absent husband seems a boy indeed – until we learn about the real, existential danger that has kept him away.

Though sadly unfinished, the tale of Aldarion and Erendis sets the stage for parallel tracks forward: in Middle-earth, the rise of Sauron with the creation of the Rings of Power; and in Númenor, a nightmarish tilt from utopia to dystopia. A jeremiad against wilfully self-destructive greed, the book brings us to a pitch of dread. And the climax – engineered by Sauron as puppeteer of a craven king – is an Atlantean cataclysm.

Fearful about 2022 and what’s to come? You will find uncomfortable resonances here. They reflect Tolkien’s anxieties about dictatorships and the approach of war when he first developed the story in 1936–7. Those fears are palpably immediate in part of another unfinished novelette, The Lost Road, included as an appendix.

Narrative flow is halting at times because The Fall of Númenor uses the chronology at the back of The Lord of the Rings as its structuring framework. But this book could show the Folio Society a thing or two. Veteran Middle-earth illustrator Alan Lee provides a dozen powerful paintings inside, and a generous scattering of exquisite pencil sketches. His figures live; the architecture of his towers and temples forms a kind of running commentary; even his frames are fascinating. His cover is an apocalyptic panorama as terrifying as any John Martin painting.

Physically beautiful and sometimes overwhelming in its power, this book is a grand compendium of all Tolkien said about the period when the foundations of The Lord of the Rings are laid – the era that Amazon attempts to dramatise in The Rings of Power.

I can’t pretend to have enjoyed the show wholeheartedly. Too often the high dialogue of elves sinks to banality. Undeniably spectacular moments are undermined by plot mechanics – in the case of the eruption of Mount Doom, literally so. The Amazon team have failed to learn a primary Tolkienian lesson: never explain how magic and enchantment work. To paraphrase Frodo Baggins, the show sometimes looks fair but feels foul.

The action is compressed into the final years of the period, with Galadriel squeezed in wherever possible – but then few TV companies would have the courage to build a cast of characters who mostly died of old age before the next season. No one would put millions behind a story as subtle as Aldarion and Erendis – and actually Amazon can’t, anyway; the adaptation rights include almost none of the wealth of detail contained in this book, but only what little The Lord of the Rings itself says about the Second Age. So the screenwriters must actively avoid telling the same story Tolkien tells, while trying to sound like him. And no one tells a story like him.

John Garth is the author of The Worlds of JRR Tolkien (Frances Lincoln). The Fall of Númenor by JRR Tolkien, edited by Brian Sibley and illustrated by Alan Lee, is published by HarperCollins (£25). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Thanks, Al. the reason why our links didn't work was that the word censor was adding a diacritical mark to Númenor. Here is a working tinyurl: https://tinyurl.com/msn39tbz
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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It's always good to get John Garth's take on things. :) I'm considerably more negative on the book, but I can definitely agree it has fantastic production values, to borrow a term from a different creative industry. It really is quite beautiful, physically, and in that respect at least I feel it gives the Second Age the respect and love it deserves. I'm not even talking about the deluxe edition; just the regular hardcover was enjoyable to read from.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Eldy »

High resolution version of the cover illustration. Open the image in its own tab to see it in even fuller glory. :shock:

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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Alatar »

Another positive review

https://tinyurl.com/bdfkrapu
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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I changed it to a tiny url to avoid the word censor, but it is behind a pay wall for me.
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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For Tolkien fans, two books add rich new layers to the series
‘The Fall of Númenor’ and ‘The Silmarillion’ provide backstory and show off Tolkien’s artistry
Review by Elizabeth Hand
November 21, 2022 at 8:00 a.m. EST

Now that “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” has finished its first season, what are Tolkien fans to do as we await the next installment? Never fear: The Tolkien literary estate seems to have an enchanted carpetbag, with wonders that emerge long after it has seemingly been emptied.

This month, it released “The Fall of Númenor,” a trove of source material about one of Middle-earth’s most intriguing and central backstories. The book is beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee and nimbly edited by Brian Sibley, who has toiled on a dozen previous Tolkien projects. Compiled from previously published material, the book is a handy addendum for any Tolkien completist and also a neat introduction for those whose sole knowledge of the doomed island comes from “The Rings of Power.”

“Númenor” was Tolkien’s attempt to grapple with what he called his “Atlantis complex” or “Atlantis-haunting.” In a 1964 letter, he wrote: “This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming up out of a quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green islands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcised by writing about it.” Indeed, hints of Númenor’s cataclysmic history appear in “The Lord of the Rings,” with lengthier accounts recorded elsewhere in the vast Tolkien Legendarium. In a nutshell:

At the end of the First Age of Middle-earth, the evil Morgoth/Melkor is defeated by an alliance of Elves and Men. The Valar, “Guardians of the World,” are directed by Ilúvatar the All-Powerful to reward these Men with their own island haven, a place “removed from the dangers of Middle-earth.” The sole hitch is the “Ban of the Valar.” This forbids the Númenóreans from ever sailing even farther west, out of sight of their island home, or setting foot upon the Undying Lands, where the Valar and select among the Elves dwell.

Men are mortal; the Elves and Valar are not. To sweeten the deal, Númenóreans are gifted a life span of hundreds of years, along with the promise of a peaceful existence on their paradisal island. Years of bliss follow as, protected by the Valar and enjoying their continuing friendship with the Eldar Elves, the people of Númenor prosper during the Second Age.

The account of this period of Númenórean history is longish and rather dull, despite the inclusion of a tale of ill-fated love. As Tolkien observes in “The Hobbit,” “Now it is a strange thing, that things that are good to have and days that are good to spend [are] not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale.” Fortunately for readers, trouble is afoot elsewhere in Middle-earth, where Sauron, Morgoth’s most powerful servant, has reemerged. He is defeated again, but not before the Rings of Power have been forged under his tutelage and dissent sowed between Elves and Númenóreans.

By now, the Númenóreans, brilliant mariners, have developed a taste for colonization and exploitation. They’ve grown impatient with the Ban of the Valar: Why shouldn’t they be immortal, too? “Ever guileful” Sauron (you didn’t really think he was dead, did you?) makes his way to Númenor. He uses three of his Nine Rings to ensnare powerful men (they eventually become Nazgûl) and encourages Númenor’s ruler to sail west and conquer the Undying Lands.

Here Tolkien’s uncomfortable palpitating and gruesome things are used to great effect, as the Númenórean people, obsessed with the necromantic arts, worship Melkor and fill “all the land with silent tombs in which the thought of death was enshrined with darkness.” They enslave other men and especially Elves, whom they have come to hate for their immortality, and sacrifice them to Melkor (Alan Lee illustrates this in a chilling, understated painting). Only a small group of Númenóreans remain faithful to the Valar and plan to sail east to seek refuge with the Elves of Middle-earth.

If you’ve read “The Lord of the Rings” or watched “The Rings of Power,” much of which takes place in Númenor, you know it will not end well for those who dismiss the Valar. “The Fall of Númenor” serves as a fine companion to the continuing Amazon series — some among the Wise may well think it hath been planned thus. And devoted Tolkien readers will find much to amaze and delight them. My favorite tidbit pertains to the mysterious fate of the entwives, from a 1954 Tolkien letter: “Some of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved. … If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult — unless experience of industrialized and militarized agriculture had made them a little more anarchic. I hope so.”

Entwives as anarchist eco-warriors! One hopes the producers of “The Rings of Power” take note.


“The Fall of Númenor” would make a very nice holiday gift. But for especially deserving Tolkien fans, you might consider the sumptuous new edition of “The Silmarillion,” lavishly furnished with Tolkien’s paintings, drawings, embellishments and maps, plus an excerpt from “The Tale of Túrin” written in the Rúmilian alphabet used only by the elves in Valinor. Tolkien was a talented artist whose work clearly shows the influence of Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement, equally at home with visionary landscapes and the decorative arts, as demonstrated by two jewel-toned drawings of Númenórean carpets. Gazing at these images in expectation of the holidays may inspire you to write a letter to Father Christmas — in Rúmilian, of course.

The Fall of Númenor and Other Tales From the Second Age of Middle-earth
Edited by Brian Sibley with illustrations by Alan Lee
HarperCollins, 296 pp, $40

The Silmarillion
By J.R.R. Tolkien; edited by Christopher Tolkien. Illustrated by the author
William Morrow, 358 pp, $65
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Thanks!
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Re: Another "new" Tolkien book

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“The Fall of Númenor” serves as a fine companion to the continuing Amazon series — some among the Wise may well think it hath been planned thus.
Gee, who would have thought?? :rofl: :devil:
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