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Elrohir Elanesse
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Post Some Confusion Regarding a Good Order to Read the Books In and Other Questions
on: July 30, 2016 01:46
The title may be worded awkwardly, so basically what I mean is that I have a very interesting... "relationship" with the books/movies. Basically what happened was I read the Hobbit when I was about nine, then reread it when I was 10. Then, I saw the LotR movies and Hobbit movies. I didn't pay much attention to the LotR movies, as I prefer to read books and then see movies, but I have a general gist of what happens in LotR. Then, I started to read The Fellowship of the Ring, but later gave up and didn't read any Tolkien works for awhile. Recently, I have just finished reading Ainulindalë, Valaquenta, Quenta Silmarillion, Akallabêth, and am almost finished reading "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" (an appendage to the copy of The Silmarillion that I received). I've heard that it's best to read the books in this order: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales 1 and 2, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, The History of Middle Earth. Since I have miserably failed at this, I would like to know what any of you think would help me avoid confusion/spoilers, as well as answer some questions I have: 1) The HoME books seem to be very similar if not the same stories as covered in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. But are they? 2) How important is it to read The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien? 3) Where can I find an accurate map of Arda before the War of Wrath, before the Drowning of Númeórë, and after the Drowning of Númeórë?
~Elrohir Elrond Elanesse
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on: July 30, 2016 02:06
First of all, welcome to CoE! I hope you enjoy your time here and that it becomes like a second home as it has for so many.

The only thing I can say is that several people have recommend reading the Silmarillion before the Trilogy, so you haven't "failed" at all. I have only read The Fellowship of the Ring and half of The Hobbit, but I will say that in browsing through the 10th volume of HoME and Unfinished Tales, I found that they caught my attention more readily. So I think order isn't critical and you definitely have a good foundation in Tolkien's works.

While some of the stories seem to overlap a little, I can assure you that each book is also a story in and of itself.

I will have to let someone else answer your map question.

[Edited on 07/31/2016 by Eruwestiel_Evensong]
"And I dreamed of seas and ships, and of waves crashing on the shore in the twilight of the world..." ~Song, member of the Realm of Ulmo
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on: July 31, 2016 03:59
Were you a buff of reading things in the order of the internal-to-Middle-earth chronology, obviously the order can only be Silmarillion, Hobbit, LoTR. With the Silmarillion only having been published in 1977, tens of millions of people never had a chance to do so, as TH in 1937 and LoTR in 1954/55 predate it by decades.

My guess is that most people start off with LoTR (again many tens of millions being animated to read the book after having seen the movies in 2001/2002/2003), with TH taking second place. People starting with the Sil - somehow, that it something I can hardly imagine as realistic.

The HoME books are a history showing how JRRT developed his concepts for the Sil and LoTR over the decades (TH only insofar as LoTR reflected back on it). They are predated by Unfinished Tales, being collections of (unfinished, surprise ...) longer versions of some tales in the Sil - but there is only one volume.

You probably mean The Book of Lost Tales volumes 1 and 2, the first two volumes of HoME. They are among the most interesting books in the entire history, showing the entirely different settings envisioned by JRRT for the transmission of these "Mythologies for England", and the people they were transmitted to - and some interesting "plate tectonics" involved.

HoME volume 3, The Lays of Beleriand, shows long (and once again unfinished ...) poems by JRRT about the two central stories of the Sil, "The Lay of the Children of Hurin", and "The Lay of Leithian" (Beren and Lúthien). It is the volume of HoME that I have read the least of, not exactly being a poetry buff - though my paperback may be over 20 years old, so what I have read since then may lead to my giving it another try.

HoME volume 4, The Shaping of Middle-earth, is where you should find answers to your questions about maps above. But do not expect anything approaching the maps of Middle-earth found in LoTR.

HoME volume 5, The Lost Road, goes off on a bit of an odd tangent, involving time travel of some kind (memory is scanty, been while since I read it), but may be the first appearance of JRRT's "Atlantis", i.e. Númenor. And some developments in the Sil after the BoLT 1+2 concept was abandoned.

HoME volumes 6 through 9, The Return of The Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of The Ring, and Sauron Defeated, are the history of the development of the LoTR. There are some interesting points, very much so how JRRT was only developing what the book was to be about while writing it. His difficulty of getting the Hobbits (bearing other names then) the *bleeep* out of Hobbiton and the Shire, who had which role in earlier phases, unexpected (JRRT's own words, that is why "Letters" is also so interesting) characters appearing ... And in SD, the return of the Lost Road theme, very much transformed in setting, and called The Notion Club Papers.

And then HoME volumes 10 through 12, Morgoth's Ring, The War of The Jewels, and The Peoples of Middle-earth, containing JRRT's continuing efforts, and increasing difficulties, in getting his beloved Silmarillion into a publishable shape, now constricted by things published in LoTR.

I found The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (by Humphrey Carpenter assisted by Christopher Tolkien - CRT) highly interesting for reasons mentioned above and for others. I would also recommend Carpenter's "J.R.R. Tolkien - a Biography", and Tom (T.A.) Shippey's books "The Road to Middle-earth" and "J.R.R. Tolkien - Author of the Century" as companions and in part correctives. For more specialized views on JRRT, there are Patrick Curry's "Defending Middle-earth", Joseph Pearce's "Tolkien - Man and Myth", Humphrey Carpenter's "The Inklings" ...

For your interest in maps, nothing I know tops Barbara Strachey's "The Journeys of Frodo" and Karen Wynn Fonstad's "The Atlas of Middle-earth". In fact, as I just see, for First Age maps, The Atlas probably has no peer - probably without JRRT's personal canon consent (first © 1973), but with deep knowledge of the geographical descriptions in the texts.

Errr - anybody still awake?
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