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The History of Middle-earth

A series consisting of 12 Volumes, edited and commented by Christopher Tolkien.

Vol I:The Book of Lost Tales 1(George Allen & Unwin; 1983)
Vol II:The Book of Lost Tales 2(George Allen & Unwin; 1984)
Vol III:The Lays of Beleriand(George Allen & Unwin; 1985)
Vol IV:The Shaping of Middle-earth(George Allen & Unwin; 1986)
Vol V:The Lost Road and Other Writings(Unwin Hyman Ltd; 1987)
Vol VI:The Return of the Shadow(Unwin Hyman Ltd; 1988)
Vol VII:The Treason of Isengard(Unwin Hyman Ltd; 1989)
Vol VIII:The War of the Ring(Unwin Hyman Ltd; 1990)
Vol IX:Sauron Defeated(HarperCollins; 1992)
Vol X:Morgoths Ring(HarperCollins; 1993)
Vol XI:The War of the Jewels(HarperCollins; 1994)
Vol XII:The Peoples of Middle-earth(HarperCollins; 1996)

For a chronological listing of all HoMe texts see http://www.forodrim.org/daeron/md_hmch.html


The History of The History of Middle-earth

The History of Middle-earth is not much - as the name would suggest - a history of Middle-earth, rather a history of Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien began writing it sometime around 1915/16 and did not really ever "finish" it throughout his lifetime. At one point Tolkien decided to name it "The Silmarillion".

1951 he wrote in a letter to Milton Waldman from Collins (who he hoped would publish "The Silmarillion" together with The Lord of the Rings):

But an equally basic passion of mine ab initio was for myth (not allegory!) and for fairy-story, and above all for heroic legend on the brink of fairy-tale and history, of which there is far too little in the world (accessible to me) for my appetite. I was an undergraduate before thought and experience revealed to me that these were not divergent interests opposite poles of science and romance but integrally related. I am not 'learned' in the matters of myth and fairy-story, however, for in such things (as far as known to me) I have always been seeking material, things of a certain tone and air, and not simple knowledge. Also and here I hope I shall not sound absurd I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing. For one thing its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherent and repetitive. For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world. (I am speaking, of course, of our present situation, not of ancient pagan, pre-Christian days. And I will not repeat what I tried to say in my essay, which you read.) Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story-the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths which I could dedicate simply to: to England; to my country. It should possess the tone and quality that I desired, somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our 'air' (the clime and soil of the North West, meaning Britain and the hither parts of Europe: not Italy or the Aegean, still less the East), and, while possessing (if I could achieve it) the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic (though it is rarely found in genuine ancient Celtic things), it should be 'high', purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry. I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.
Letters #131

This letter, btw.,. is printed in part as a preface to The Silmarillion in some editions. If you read it you will probably understand better what the HoMe is about.

Tolkien kept almost every draft of each tale he wrote and never ceased adding, editing and changing the tales of his legendarium. When it turned out that The Lord of the Rings was going to be a commercial success, the publishers - Sir Stanley and Rayner Unwin - suddenly were rather eager to publish The Silmarillion, the publication of which they had turned down flat first in 1937 and a little more reluctant in 1950. It was about this time, Rayner Unwin remembered*) shortly before he died in 2000, that he was shown from time to time the serried ranks of box files that contained, as he was told, like beads without a string, the raw material of The Silmarillion.


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