J.R.R. Tolkien isn't letting having died forty-six years ago hold back his writing career. In August he will publish The Fall of Gondolin, as edited and compiled by his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien.
"The Fall of Gondolin" was the very first story Tolkien ever wrote about Middle-earth, writing it down whilst on convalescent leave following the Battle of the Somme in late 1916 or early 1917. The story was written "in army huts, crowded filled with the noise of gramophones." Sometimes cribbing manuscript paper from any source to hand (part of the story is written on the back of a paper outlining the "chain of responsibility in a battalion"), Tolkien wrote and completed the narrative, the first instalment in a work he called The Book of Lost Tales. This book would collect together various stories from an ancient work between a dark force and the wise and powerful "Gnomes" (named for gnosis, or wisdom) who opposed it, through the framing device of a hapless mariner washing ashore on an island called Tol Eressea and learning about the ancient conflict. The original "Fall of Gondolin" was written in a severely archaic and studied style, which Tolkien later found over-laboured.
By 1930 Tolkien had abandoned the framing device and instead planned to tell the story "straight", under a new title, The Silmarillion, which required a total rewrite (including replacing the name "Gnomes" with "Elves," after the 1930s craze for garden gnomes made the name unbearable to him). However, he was interrupted first by a children's story he had started writing for his children, which became The Hobbit, and then urgent publisher demands for a sequel, which became The Lord of the Rings. Whilst working on both books, Tolkien did continue to develop The Silmarillion, but increasingly came to write the story in very broad brush strokes, lacking the fine detail of "The Fall of Gondolin." "The Fall of Gondolin" therefore only existed as the archaic 1917 manuscript (later amended and edited by Tolkien circa 1920) and a very brief summary of the story that Tolkien had written as part of the Grey Annals of Beleriand (which formed much of the published Silmarillion).
Around 1951, after The Lord of the Rings had been completed but whilst its publication was in question, Tolkien wrote a new version of the Gondolin story. His plan had been to depict the fall of the city in a detailed, more sophisticated mode of writing more akin to Lord of the Rings. However, after depicting the hero Tuor's arrival at the city gates and his first meeting with Ecthelion, Warden of the Grey Gate, Tolkien abruptly broke off the narrative and did note complete this version of the story. This incomplete narrative - totalling just 34 pages and retitled "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" - forms the opening part of Unfinished Tales (1980), with Christopher Tolkien noting that his father's failure to complete this story may rank as the greatest tragedy of his literary life.
Christopher Tolkien began publishing all of his father's drafts in The History of Middle-earth series. The original 1917-20 version of "The Fall of Gondolin" finally saw print in The Book of Lost Tales, Part II (1984), the second volume of the series. A 120-verse poem, "The Lay of the Fall of Gondolin," also appeared in The Lays of Beleriand (1985), the third volume of The History of Middle-earth.
The "new" Fall of Gondolin will, as Beren and Luthien (2017) did before it, contain all of the extant versions of the text, collected together with editorial commentary and artwork by Alan Lee. There'll be nothing new here, but it should be worth it for the Lee artwork alone.
The Fall of Gondolin will be published on 30 August 2018.