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FasterThanMeerkats
02-17-2013, 02:05 PM
Ok, at age 31 have just reread my childhood favorites of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Never read any other Tolkien works and have always wanted to explore them, but never knew where to start.

So, what other Tolkien books should I read, in what order, and why?

Many thanks to all respondents.:)

jayjay
02-17-2013, 02:23 PM
Children of Hurin is really the only other finished, polished Tolkien book set in Middle-Earth (albeit published posthumously). All of the other vast array of Middle-Earth-related material is either hastily but carefully compiled "best copy" drafts (the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Lost Tales) or painstaking literary research on the evolution of the writing of the LOTR (History of Middle-Earth).

Most of what's left aside from that is short stories and poems. There have been a few collections (Tree and Leaf, for example, which consists of his essay "On Fairy Stories" and his story "Leaf by Niggle"), and there's a lot of rather dry academic work. There are also his letters, which expand and explain certain things in the LOTR and Hobbit.

Here's Wiki's bibliography for Tolkien (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._R._Tolkien_bibliography)

I would personally suggest finding "Farmer Giles of Ham" and "Leaf by Niggle" in the short story category, "On Fairy Stories" in the non-fiction category, and the Letters. I'd also recommend finding The Silmarillion and just using it as a browsing book, as it's not really a single narrative. It's more like the Bible than LOTR.

Amateur Barbarian
02-17-2013, 02:26 PM
I am one of those who was never much moved by Tolkien (ground to a halt around the start of RotK about three times and gave up), but from several very dedicated reader/fans... absolutely nothing but these four books are really worth reading. Dreary, disconnected, and mostly a case of publishing laundry lists and post-it notes, I gather, and Children is so dull as to be unpublishable except, you know, JRRT. - all hearsay but it's what I've heard from believable sources.

Peremensoe
02-17-2013, 02:30 PM
FasterThanMeerkats, you may get a better answer if you describe what element or aspect of the books particularly does move you.

twickster
02-17-2013, 02:37 PM
I am one of those who was never much moved by Tolkien (ground to a halt around the start of RotK about three times and gave up), but from several very dedicated reader/fans... absolutely nothing but these four books are really worth reading. Dreary, disconnected, and mostly a case of publishing laundry lists and post-it notes, I gather, and Children is so dull as to be unpublishable except, you know, JRRT. - all hearsay but it's what I've heard from believable sources.

Since you haven't read the Ring trilogy, offering advice about other books that you haven't read seems unhelpful -- albeit not quite to the level of threadshitting. You might want to avoid sharing opinions based on your preconceptions rather than your experience.

Tim R. Mortiss
02-17-2013, 02:41 PM
I'd say it depends on your enjoyment of the appendices at the end of RotK. If you ate those up with a spoon, you'd probably enjoy The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. If you found the appendices too dry to be enjoyed, it's time to move on to another author.

Amateur Barbarian
02-17-2013, 02:43 PM
Since you haven't read the Ring trilogy, offering advice about other books that you haven't read seems unhelpful -- albeit not quite to the level of threadshitting. You might want to avoid sharing opinions based on your preconceptions rather than your experience.
I have read the Hobbit several times and FotR and TT a few times, as well as the first third of RotK at least twice. I've also browsed several other of the books, which are here on the marital shelf. I don't think I'm commenting from ignorance and I was careful to specify that my slight considerations are backed up by lifelong discussions with several devoted Tolkien readers.

Mine may not be the most deeply informed comment but I don't think it's in any slightest way threadshitting. I will, however, defer to the modwhack and move on.

Chronos
02-17-2013, 03:36 PM
Personally, I think that Children of Hurin contained some of the best prose I've ever read. And it was certainly morbid, and thick enough that it takes a while to read it, but I don't think I'd call any of it dull.

Of the other Middle-Earth works, you've basically got The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and the History of Middle-Earth series (which starts with the two volumes of The Book of Lost Tales. I would recommend that you read The Silmarillion before Unfinished Tales: Most of the writing in UT is very good, but it is (as it says on the cover) unfinished, so it helps to have context for it. I'm not sure when it would be best to read Children of Hurin: A large chunk of it is found, more or less as-is, in Unfinished Tales, and the complete story (in a much less detailed version) is found in Silmarillion. I don't recommend the History of Middle-Earth at all, unless you're specifically interested in the process by which the stories got written, as opposed to the internals of the stories themselves.

Also be advised that The Silmarillion has several sections to it, and that some people find the first two sections (the Valaquenta and Ainulindule, accounts of the creation of the World) somewhat dry: If you're one of them, it's fine to skip over those to the Silmarillion proper, and come back to them later.

FasterThanMeerkats
02-17-2013, 07:13 PM
FasterThanMeerkats, you may get a better answer if you describe what element or aspect of the books particularly does move you.

I loved the well-told epicness of LOTR and the personable, less serious adventure aspect of The Hobbit. Each were well done, though with dramatically different styles. I'm also a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire if that helps. Basically good writing and a good story is all I ask (though RR Martin does carry on a bit much).

Skald the Rhymer
02-17-2013, 07:20 PM
I am one of those who was never much moved by Tolkien (ground to a halt around the start of RotK about three times and gave up), but from several very dedicated reader/fans... absolutely nothing but these four books are really worth reading. Dreary, disconnected, and mostly a case of publishing laundry lists and post-it notes, I gather, and Children is so dull as to be unpublishable except, you know, JRRT. - all hearsay but it's what I've heard from believable sources.

Speaking someone pretty much introduced to Tolkien by the movies, I must say that I adore CHILDREN OF HURIN, as well as THE SILMARILLION and much of his other work. In fact, I prefer Sil to LotR. Though mine is a minority opinion, I'd say anyone who has made it all the way through LotR has about a 25% chance of liking SIL, especially if they skip the Ainulindale and go straight to the story. The first section is best approached as reference material.

In fact, I wouldn't mind if Sil were published, as an ebook, with much of the first section broken up and accessible primarily as links when the names of Valar and Maiar come up, and a similar treatment for the character name glossary at the back.

Knorf
02-17-2013, 07:33 PM
I'm a lifelong Tolkien enthusiastic, but I didn't read The Silmarillion or any of the rest until adulthood. My opinion is that The Silmarillion, The Children of Hśrin, and Unfinished Tales are extremely enjoyable, and indispensable for a Tolkien fan. I do also enjoy reading Farmer Giles of Ham, though it is not set in Middle Earth. Unless you have a very poor reader attention span or can only read at the sixth-grade level or less, none of the above are "unreadable" in any sense. I didn't just enjoy reading those books, I have thoroughly enjoyed re-reading them on multiple occasions.

Chronos
02-17-2013, 08:45 PM
Quoth Skald the Rhymer:

Speaking someone pretty much introduced to Tolkien by the movies...
Wait, what? I'd figured you had been reading Tolkien since you were old enough to hold the books unassisted. And haven't you complained in the past about the movies not being all that great?

the_diego
02-17-2013, 10:02 PM
Smith of Wooten Major
Farmer Giles of Ham
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Second Stone
02-18-2013, 02:17 AM
Speaking someone pretty much introduced to Tolkien by the movies, I must say that I adore CHILDREN OF HURIN, as well as THE SILMARILLION and much of his other work. In fact, I prefer Sil to LotR. Though mine is a minority opinion, I'd say anyone who has made it all the way through LotR has about a 25% chance of liking SIL, especially if they skip the Ainulindale and go straight to the story. The first section is best approached as reference material.

In fact, I wouldn't mind if Sil were published, as an ebook, with much of the first section broken up and accessible primarily as links when the names of Valar and Maiar come up, and a similar treatment for the character name glossary at the back.

The Silmarillion is different in style than the hobbit books. They are legends written in a biblical style. Many people who like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit find it impossible to read. That said, I think it is the keystone piece of fantasy literature. Without it having been written, the hobbit books would not be in the rich context they are, much less all the imitators. I also think that it is better than the hobbit books.

Steophan
02-18-2013, 05:54 AM
I loved the well-told epicness of LOTR and the personable, less serious adventure aspect of The Hobbit. Each were well done, though with dramatically different styles. I'm also a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire if that helps. Basically good writing and a good story is all I ask (though RR Martin does carry on a bit much).

I'd suggest Tales From The Perilous Realm. It's not set in Middle-earth, but is a collection of novellas and poems, some of which have already been mentioned. Maybe borrow The Silmarillion and try it, but if you've not finished ROTK and read the appendices, I doubt you'll like it much. There's none of the less serious nature of The Hobbit in it, and whilst the overarching story is actually more epic than LOTR, and there are passages of great writing, it's inconsistent, and betrays the fact that it was stitched together from various drafts from several decades of writing.

Basically, if you love Middle-earth, and Tolkien's vision, read the Silmarillion and the other posthumous works. If you love epic fantasy, and want more of that, look for other authors.

carlb
02-18-2013, 07:36 AM
For anyone having trouble getting through The Silmarillion, I would suggest reading it in conjunction with The Tolkien Professor (http://www.tolkienprofessor.com/wp/)'s "Silmarillion Seminar (http://tolkienprofessor.com/wp/lectures/courses/silmarillion-seminar/)" podcast. It's a chapter-by-chapter dissection of the book, led by Dr. Olsen, with discussion and questions by and from a small group of readers. It can get a bit too in-depth at times, and there's one participant that I have to fast-forward past because I find him annoying, but on the whole it's a great way to have someone knowledgeable help you along through the text.

Wendell Wagner
02-18-2013, 07:54 AM
Here's a website that's a good guide to Tolkien's works:

http://home.earthlink.net/~dbratman/tolkien_bib.html

I would say that you might want to read the short books as a diversion before going on things like The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth. So perhaps start with Farmer Giles of Ham, Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootten Major, etc. The Silmarillion is going to be a little bit of a job to read, so perhaps before you read it you can read those short works, maybe supplemented by reading some of his letters or a biography before getting to it.

Apocalypso
02-18-2013, 09:22 AM
I've read/re-read everything except the Silmarillion recently (it's next on the list).
Keep in mind everything except the Hobbit/LOTR deals with ancient history and is somewhat fragmented. LOTR is the "main" story, and everything else is an attempt to explain some of the backstory behind it. For example, the Druedan are a race of short, stocky people that are only very briefly mentioned in LOTR (because they were thought to have died out by that time). Unfinished Tales has a bit explaining who the Druedan were and what happened to them. It's not terribly extensive or terribly important, but it does add that little extra element to the main story.

Unfinished Tales seems to cover a lot of backstory that takes place closer to LOTR and The Hobbit. For example, it has a nice section on the Rohirrim and the Battles of the Fords of Isen (when Sauruman first attacked Rohan at the Fords just prior to the events in The Two Towers). A lot of names mentioned briefly in TTT are here, Elfhelm, Erkenbrand, Theoden Kings son Theodred and his fate, etc. Very insightful at getting the bigger picture of the events in LOTR. It also details some of the pre-story to the Hobbit, namely Thorin's meeting with Gandalf where Gandalf convinced the Dwarves to take Bilbo on their quest to the Lonely Mountain. There's also a section describing Numenor and its people, a section on the Palantir, etc. I'd strongly recommend you read this next, it really brings life to the backstories of LOTR and you will re-read LOTR with new understanding.

The Children of Hurin, as mentioned by other posters, appears in both The Silmarillion and Unfinished tales. I haven't compared the different versions but I think the stand alone Children of Hurin book is the most detailed and complete, and Christopher Tolkien attempted to sort through the different versions and produce the "definitive" version. It deals with the era of Morgoth in the land of Berialand - the westernmost part of Middle-Earth which was destroyed, waaay before LOTR. Sauron is mentioned briefly here and there as Morgoth's lieutenant but doesn't play a major part. Some "ancient" history that is mentioned in LOTR very briefly is in here (Elrond speaks of Thangrodim being broken at the Council in the Fellowship), a few names surface here and there in LOTR (Elrond's dad and his hidden city of Gondolin, some of the places Treebeard talks about where he walked in his youth). Very interesting, but it's a whole new land and a different age, so not that much will be familiar to LOTR readers. The story of Beren and Luthien and how they stole the Silmarillion from Morgoth's crown occured around this time and is mentioned briefly but that story is not told here. It was supposed to be a stand-alone story (like the Children of Hurin), but was never finished and never will be.

The Silmarillion goes back to the beginning (although it covers many different ages) and is just very densely packed. It deals with the first elves and their histories and can be very confusing due to the sheer amount of names and lineages involved. There's about twelve dozen different groups of elves (slight exaggeration;)) depending on whether they heard the call to return to the West, whether they ANSWERED the call, whether they made it the whole way back or stopped before or after Ered Luin, whether they eventually made it to Valar or not. It's very complicated, and I'd definitely recommend you read it, but not until you finish the others.

cjepson
02-18-2013, 11:28 AM
I enjoyed The Return of the Shadow (which is essentially Christopher Tolkien's piecing together of the early drafts of The Fellowship of the Ring) because Tolkien's original ideas were so different from how the book ended up.

cjepson
02-18-2013, 11:35 AM
I'd say it depends on your enjoyment of the appendices at the end of RotK. If you ate those up with a spoon, you'd probably enjoy The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. If you found the appendices too dry to be enjoyed, it's time to move on to another author.

This is exactly correct, except for one thing: Even if you didn't like the appendices, you might still enjoy Farmer Giles of Ham (kind of Hobbit-ish) and Smith of Wootton Major (a little more like the early adult fantasies Tolkien was emulating with his Middle-Earth stories). Leaf by Niggle is different -- it's not a fairy-story.

jayjay
02-18-2013, 11:56 AM
Leaf by Niggle is different -- it's not a fairy-story.

I disagree. It doesn't have elves and dwarves and dragons, no, but I think it's lodged firmly in the fairy-story category.

Chronos
02-18-2013, 04:07 PM
Tolkien firmly insisted that "Leaf by Niggle" was a fairy story, while simultaneously defining "fairy story" in such a way as to very clearly exclude it. I think that he was just in cognitive dissonance from avoiding using the a-word.

Ludovic
02-18-2013, 04:31 PM
It deals with the era of Morgoth in the land of Berialand.Do you know who ELSE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beleriand) wanted to conquer Berialand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beria)?

Skald the Rhymer
02-19-2013, 02:57 PM
Wait, what? I'd figured you had been reading Tolkien since you were old enough to hold the books unassisted. And haven't you complained in the past about the movies not being all that great?

Not quite.

I read HOBBIT in 6th grade, I think. My teacher liked me and gave me it and the Narnia books for Xmas. Loved Lewis, liked Tolkien. We didn't have a lot of money, so I checked books out from the library more than I bought. Our local library had only THE TWO TOWERS, in an edition lacking even a "Okay, here's what happened last time" preface, so I never got past the first couple of pages.

In 2001, a friend of mine insisted that I go to FELLOWSHIP with him. I agreed mostly because the theatre was a trivial walking distance from my apartment. To my surprise I absolutely loved it (and still do). I bought the books a while later.

The only one of Jackson's trilogy I do not like is RETURN OF THE KING. Of the other two, FELLOWSHIP is mostly brilliant with one major flaw and a few minor ones; TOWERS is nearly as brilliant, but builds on the minor flaws of its predecessor; and KING is mostly dreck, but has...let me count...four wonderful sequences. It's better viewed on DVD, since that lets you skip the dreck.

Oh, and SILMARILLION is better than LOTR, and far, far better than HOBBIT.

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-19-2013, 03:48 PM
Another way to approach reading SIL for the first time is to do so with a copy of Fonstad's "Atlas of Middle Earth" on your lap. That really helped me get it.

I too find SIL more enjoyable than LOTR, tho not by much.

UT's pretty good too, and all the HOMES volumes relating to writing of LOTR are quite accessible to the non-SIL reader

jayjay
02-19-2013, 04:06 PM
Another way to approach reading SIL for the first time is to do so with a copy of Fonstad's "Atlas of Middle Earth" on your lap. That really helped me get it.

God, I miss KWF. I can only imagine what she'd manage to do with Wheel of Time or Song of Ice and Fire. I'd kill for a Fonstad atlas for either or both of those series...

Airk
02-20-2013, 10:42 AM
I like the Silmarillion, but I agree with the suggestion that maybe you might want to skip the first section. It's... not the finest way to start the book. In fact, I find that the later in the book a given story is, the more I tend to like it.

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-20-2013, 04:02 PM
maybe you might want to skip the first section.
Ainulindalė (the first section) daunted me quite a bit at first, but now it's one of my favorite parts of SIL, and I can even recite chunks of it from memory.

Thudlow Boink
02-20-2013, 04:19 PM
Wait, what? I'd figured you had been reading Tolkien since you were old enough to hold the books unassisted. And haven't you complained in the past about the movies not being all that great?I wondered about this too. Thanks for asking, Chronos, and for answering, Skald. It's still a bit disconscerting to think that there was a time when you hadn't read everything.

Our local library had only THE TWO TOWERS, in an edition lacking even a "Okay, here's what happened last time" preface, so I never got past the first couple of pages.I seem to recall Ursula LeGuin describing a similar first encounter with LOTR.

Oh, and SILMARILLION is better than LOTR, and far, far better than HOBBIT. I'm going to have to give The Silmarillion another try. The last time I read it was at least 30 years ago, after my first time through LOTR, but it didn't make much of an impression on me.

Cheesesteak
02-20-2013, 04:48 PM
I guess I have to try Simarillon again as well. Tried to read it not that long ago, and found it drier than a mummy's ass. Perhaps I'll skip ahead a bit, and work my way back to the beginning.

jayjay
02-20-2013, 04:57 PM
Ainulindalė (the first section) daunted me quite a bit at first, but now it's one of my favorite parts of SIL, and I can even recite chunks of it from memory.

I actually tried (very briefly) to back-translate Ainulindale (no time for diacritics right now) into proto-pidgin Quenya. IIRC, it was either Lost Tales or Unfinished Tales that had a Quenya/Sindarin root-glossary in it. I quickly discovered that it wasn't anywhere near as complete a glossary as I wanted it to be and that I wasn't going to be able to deduce Tolkien's Quenya grammar from first principles, so I dropped the idea. This was well pre-WWW, so I had no supporting documentation other than what books had been published to that point. *sigh*

Airk
02-20-2013, 05:13 PM
I guess I have to try Simarillon again as well. Tried to read it not that long ago, and found it drier than a mummy's ass. Perhaps I'll skip ahead a bit, and work my way back to the beginning.

I really actually endorse this method. In fact, if you're feeling intimidated, just skip ahead to "Of Beren and Luthien" - sure, there might be some stuff you'll be missing in terms of background, but it's a coherent tale in its own right, and it'll help start "pulling you backwards" in the chronology. Or if you don't want to start like 3/4ths of the way through the book, or you feel like you want the "background first", try starting with Valaquenta. (Though I still feel like a lot of Quenta Silmarillion can be read out of order with little harm to the reader.)

GargoyleWB
02-20-2013, 05:45 PM
...
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Seconding this. I've read several other translations, and Tolkien's is by far the best. Other translations have read like boring academic exercises, Tolkien's is genuinely beautiful prose.

MHaye
02-20-2013, 05:46 PM
Many people like the "distant horizons" feeling that Tolkien evoked by setting LotR in a world with a back history. if you are one of those, don't read any of the other books.

If you do move into the writings of the First Age, then I think The Silmarillion is an indespensible first stop. It provides a framework for the understanding of all the others.

Unfinished Tales is worth reading, if only for the tale of Tuor, the death of Isildur and the revelation of the location of the tomb of Elendil.

Of the History of Middle-Earth, my favourites were the Lays of Beleriand, the Treason of Isengard (for the expansion of Bilbo's poem about Earendil) and Morgoth's Ring. Others were OK; I particularly struggled with volume 9, which I have only read the once and never returned to.

Skald the Rhymer
02-21-2013, 07:26 PM
Ainulindalė (the first section) daunted me quite a bit at first, but now it's one of my favorite parts of SIL, and I can even recite chunks of it from memory.

I too like Ainulindale, though unlike you I'm too lazy to do the diaeresis. But it shouldn't be read first by a virgin.

Apocalypso
02-22-2013, 08:05 AM
Do you know who ELSE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beleriand) wanted to conquer Berialand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beria)?

Ok it's early in the morning and I've just started my coffee, but I'm entirely missing the meaning of this. Other than the similarity in names I can't figure out why you linked to a Russian politician. Apologies for my mis-spelling Beleriand though.

Another way to approach reading SIL for the first time is to do so with a copy of Fonstad's "Atlas of Middle Earth" on your lap. That really helped me get it.
If you're too poor for this, the Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/) is an excellent free online resource that has tons of maps and a huge index of people, races, lands, etc to pore over. I believe it was Qadgop who actually linked this for me recently, and I've since found it an invaluable resource when reading the books.

Grey
03-01-2013, 10:00 AM
And Christopher Tolkien has found a new napkin covered in his father's writing : The Fall of Arthur. (http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0544115899/ref=pe_220940_28479140_pe_re_csr_ht)

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