cover image The Nature of Middle-Earth

The Nature of Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Carl F. Hostetter. Mariner, $32 (464p) ISBN 978-0-358-45460-1

This collection of Tolkien’s last unpublished writings, curated by Tolkien expert Hostetter, may best be understood as a continuation of the many previous volumes assembled by Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien, that allow readers to see the author “thinking... on paper.” Hostetter goes so far as to say in his foreword that this volume will appeal most to those who already have “particular interest” in Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-Earth. Indeed, the entire first section is devoted to various brief writings in which Tolkien works out the rate at which elves age, making adjustments to fit the timescale of The Silmarillion. This is not to say that there’s nothing here to delight more casual fans: other pieces give detailed descriptions of many Lord of the Rings characters, touch on the true nature of the great eagles that appear in that work and The Hobbit, muse on the Elvish languages, and discuss which characters have beards. Each passage is preceded by information on when and how Tolkien wrote it, going so granular as to include details on writing implement usage. The upcoming Lord of the Rings TV show may drive interest among casual readers, but hardcore Tolkien fans will still be the primary audience. For devotees, this will be a treasure. (Sept.)