Part of a very early (ca. 1914-1920) attempt by J. R. R. Tolkien to set in order the vast body of invented mythologies and histories that are dimly glimpsed as ""background"" in The Lord of the Rings--but that Tolkien was never able to ready for publication in their own right. His son and literary executor Christopher, wrestling with a maze of variant texts representing many strata of thought and afterthought, devoted an initial volume (p. 16) to the part of the material that corresponds to roughly the first half of the posthumously published Silmarillion (1977): the cosmology of Tolkien's invented world and the early history of the Elves in Middle-earth, cast in an uneasy tale-telling sequence. But, while the material here--set at somewhat later periods of the same primeval pre-hobbit age--is threaded with similar references to the tale framework, it is far less diffuse and more vigorously developed. The three longest and solidest of the six separate narratives--""The Tale of Tinuviel,"" ""Turambar and the FoalokÃ«,"" and especially ""The Fall of Gondolin""--are detailed early versions of material that received briefer late treatment in The Silmarillion. ""The Mauglafring,"" dealing with an accursed treasure, is a slighter postscript to these; and the last two tales--one the story of the legendary mariner EÃ„rendel, the other an attempt to link the burgeoning invented histories with the language and geography of pre-Norman England-were never written, being represented here only by jotted notes, scraps of narrative, and various bits of verse in the half-baked early Tolkien manner. As before, Christopher Tolkien supplies reams of textual commentary endeavoring--with sporadic success--to shed light on his father's constant rearrangements. So there's plenty here for those hooked on the game of Eldarin ""scholarship"" (with further material still to come), plus some highly readable material for slightly less devout Tolkien followers.