THE SHAPING OF MIDDLE-EARTH: The Quenta, The Ambarkanta, and the Annals, Vol. IV in THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH by J.R.R. Tolkien
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THE SHAPING OF MIDDLE-EARTH: The Quenta, The Ambarkanta, and the Annals, Vol. IV in THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This fourth installment of Tolkien's early notebooks, carefully edited by his son Christopher, is made up of all-but-unreadable fragments dated between 1926 and the 1930's--years during which Tolkien was more profitably engaged in writing The Hobbit. There is a very early and mercifully brief version of the impenetrable elf-epic, The Silmarillion. The Annals of Valinor and the Annals of Beleriand fill in more pre-history leading up to the action later depicted in Lord of the Rings. There are maps drawn by Tolkien (including the earliest Silmarillion map) that show how early Tolkien's imagination settled into specifics of time and place. But the charismatic heroes that made The Lord of the Rings such a compelling heroic narrative--The Aragorns, the Frodos--are nowhere to be found. It was characterization that came last to Tolkien--after many years of the repetitive five-finger exercises painstakingly (and misguidedly) preserved here. It could be said that Tolkien showed better sense than his editor in choosing not to publish these elaborate and ingenious but dry-as-dust background scenarios. The fragments have been edited with an attention to variant spellings and first appearances of themes and characters that should be helpful to some Tolkien scholars. But Tolkien himself will surely be remembered by his admirers for the extraordinary people be imagined so fully--as well as for the subtle geographical and political/cosmological backdrop against which they moved in Lord of the Rings. These scratchings and faulty early drafts will add nothing to his reputation. . .except among those skeptics who have always derided him as a bore.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin