It seems to me that it used to be much harder to get a book published. It was a dream of many writers in the United States to write the great American novel. Some succeeded, but ultimately failed with their sophomore novels. In fact, I can think of very few authors who have written numerous pieces of fiction that have stood the test of time. The only three off the top of my head are Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and G.K. Chesterton. Sorry, Stephanie Meyer. No one cares about Team Edward or Team Jacob anymore. The same goes for you, Suzanne Collins with Peeta and Gale. (Disclaimer: My wife came up with more than I did, but it’s too late to include them.)
Another interesting observation I have had lately is that British authors seem to write better fiction. We go all the way back to Shakespeare and work our way through the centuries to Chaucer, Dickens, Wells, Tolkien, Lewis, Dahl, and Rowling … just to name a few. What is it about the English that make them so much better at fiction than their American counterparts? I wish I knew, but I don’t. Instead of focusing on why they are better, I would instead like to put the spotlight on one in particular, J.R.R. Tolkien, and tell you about some of his works.
Instead of looking at The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or even The Silmarillion, I would like to pay mention to some of his other, lesser known works. The Fall of Gondolin is the most recent book published by Christopher Tolkien, calling upon his father’s unfinished manuscripts. This tale focuses on the destruction of an elven city called Gondolin. At odds over this city are two Valar powers – Ulmo and Morgoth (essentially Satan in Tolkien’s created universe). We also have a mighty elven character in the form of Eärendel (Elrond’s father). The city is ultimately destroyed and there was supposed to be a follow-up story focusing on Eärendel, but like most of Tolkien’s works it went unfinished due to his nature of perfectionism.
Continuing with Middle-Earth literature is the work Beren and Lúthien. This tale was a bit of a precursor to The Silmarillion and focused on star-crossed lovers: one mortal man and one immortal elf. To wed the elf maiden, Beren is tasked with the impossible – steal from Melkor (also known as Morgoth). The story was ever-changing, which we can see in this text as Christopher Tolkien attempts to illustrate the evolution of the story and how it grew. We also have the book The Children of Hurin, which is hard to believe was published over 10 years ago. This was probably the first taste back into Middle-Earth for people who love Tolkien and provided us with new characters in a familiar universe. This is probably the greatest Tolkien work after The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. It’s a shame we didn’t get more of these works … if only …
For non-Middle-Earth literature we have works such as The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, The Story of Kullervo, Beowulf: A Translation, The Fall of Arthur, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún. These tales focus on mythology and folklore, primarily from the British region of the world. Most of the works are poetic in nature with a setting of dark fantasy, and a bitter end for the protagonists. These works too are largely unfinished but provide glimpses of the brilliance of Tolkien and an imagined what-if he had finished these works. Already considered one of the world’s greatest authors, you have to imagine how highly his status would have been elevated had he finished less than half of what he started.
There are many other books worth mentioning, both by Tolkien and about Tolkien. For those looking for some lighter tales, I’d recommend a Treasury of four books including Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major, and Roverandom. For those looking for art and Tolkien, I recommend the following – The Art of the Hobbit, The Art of The Lord or the Rings, and A Middle-Earth Traveler. The first two are considered glorious coffee-table books, and the third book takes the brilliant art of John Howe and pairs it with characters, items, locations, and scenes from the book, mixing equal parts art and history. There are also specialized books which focus on some specific feature of his works, such as plants in Flora of Middle-Earth or books of essays in There Would Always be a Fairy Tale. Needless to say, if you love Tolkien, you have enough books to keep you busy for a while.
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Copyright 2019 Stuart Dunn
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