Wednesday, 22 June 2022

New Middle-earth book announced for 2022

A new Middle-earth book is on its way. The Fall of Númenor will be published on 10 November 2022 and will recount the events of the Second Age of Middle-earth, accompanied by new artwork by popular Tolkien artist Alan Lee.

The book will be published an impressive forty-nine years after the death of J.R.R. Tolkien and almost three years after the death of his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien, who had been entrusted with the maintenance of his father's legacy after his death. Christopher published almost every single word his father ever wrote on Middle-earth, from the semi-complete story of The Silmarillion through numerous early drafts, incomplete short stories and esoteric worldbuilding essays on the most minor facets of live in Middle-earth. Much of this material was assembled in the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth series and books like Unfinished Tales. A further volume, The Nature of Middle-earth, was published in 2021 with Carl F. Hostetter as editor. This book included more previously unpublished material by J.R.R. Tolkien and was produced with Christopher Tolkien's permission and approval.

This volume appears to contain no "new" information in the form of previously-unpublished material by Tolkien. Instead, it appears to contain all the narratives that Tolkien wrote about the Second Age, assembled into one handy volume. This will likely include The Akallabêth, the closing part of The Silmarillion dealing with the fate of the island kingdom of Númenor; the "Second Age" section of Unfinished Tales which contains an incomplete short story, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife," as well as a detailed genealogy of the kings and queens of Númenor and a map of the island; and the "Second Age" material from the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. There is also some material in the History of Middle-earth series which may be included.

The book is clearly intended as a tie-in with Amazon Prime's The Rings of Power television series, which is set in the Second Age and is concerned with elements including the forging of the One Ring and the rise and fall of Numenor. That TV show hits screens on 2 September.

The Fall of Numenor is not the first "greatest hits" repackaging of material from less-accessible, scholarly works into an easier-to-read format. Christopher Tolkien himself re-edited material from those books into three narrative tomes aimed at the layman: The Children of Húrin (2007), Beren and Lúthien (2017) and The Fall of Gondolin (2018). The Fall of Númenor follows in that tradition.

The book is edited by Tolkien scholar and expert Brian Sibley, who previously wrote the early 1980s BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and served as a consultant on the Peter Jackson movie trilogy, penning several of the tie-in "making of" books, returning in that capacity for the later Hobbit trilogy. He also wrote the booklets accompanying John Howe's "maps of Middle-earth" series in the 1990s.

This book does mark a minor bit of history in Tolkien publishing, being apparently the first Middle-earth book to have been assembled and published without the permission or approval of either J.R.R. or Christopher Tolkien (although I suspect the latter would not have been entirely opposed, given his previous work). Tolkien fans will now be wondering what the future may hold in terms of similar "fixup" works being put together from other sources.

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