Unfinished Tales (Unicorn S.)

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Paperback, 1982



Call number




HarperCollins (1982), Paperback


Collected by Tolkien's son, these tales further exlore the legendary Middle-earth, including its languages, legends, politics, and kings, and ranging temporally from the Elder Days through the War of the Rings.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Karlstar
More stories and explanations about some of the key story arcs in Middle-earth, some before and some during LOTR.
LibraryThing member antao
(Original Review, 1980-10-13)

The new Tolkien book is out. While I haven't read even half of it, I think I've read enough to produce a helpful review, so here goes. This book ("Unfinished Tales" by JRR Tolkien, $15 from Houghton Mifflin) is definitely not a book for a general readership, nor even
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for the mass Tolkien consumer, who thinks that Lord of the Rings is a swell story, but all that linguistic and historical stuff is just a lot of window-dressing. Rather than a narrative, it's really a sort of organized memory dump of Tolkien's filing cabinet [2018 EDIT: “filing cabinet” indeed!!!]. It includes a much longer version of the tale of Turin, a large fragment of the story of Tuor, substantial information on Numenor and the line of kings, various versions of the history of Galadriel and Celeborn, some fascinating fragementary material on the Five Wizards, and jillions of footnotes and appendices to all, which describe variant versions, point out apparent contradictions, and provide fascinating supplementary information. Because of its fragmentary nature, you can pretty much start anywhere in the book, which has its advantages.

For the true Tolkien fanatic, the sort of person who wants the names for the other two Istari, who is fascinated by the explanation of the Teleri dialect of Elvish, or who was curious as to just why the cats of Queen Beruthiel were proverbial, this book is an absolute gold mine, even more "fun" in its way than the Silmarillion. For the reader interested in a dramatic narrative, "Unfinished Tales" will be somewhat of a disappointment (although what narrative there is quite good). The $15 tag will probably deter all but the hard-core anyway, however.

"Unfinished Tales" is for those who have not yet sufficiently explored Middle-Earth -- its languages, its legends, its politics, and its kings. Here are narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Rings [2018 EDIT: sic; LMAO] and comprising such various elements as Gandalf's lively account of how it was that he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End. The book contains the only story that survived from the long ages of Numenor before its downfall and all that is known of such matters as the Five Wizards, the Palantiri, and the legend of Amroth.

The collection has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, who explains in his introduction the variety of treatments these writings have demanded and has provided a commentary on each of the tales. He has redrawn the map accompanying "The Lord of the Rings" on a larger scale and with the addition of new features and names and has reproduced the only map of Numenor J.R.R. Tolkien ever made.

CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN has, like his father, taught at Oxford and now devotes himself full time to editing the papers of J.R.R Tolkien.

[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]
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LibraryThing member ex_ottoyuhr
Read this book if you want more _Lord of the Rings_, better _Lord of the Rings_ (that'd be me), or a means of psyching yourself up for _The Silmarillion_. You'll discover that without the Silmarillion as background none of this is remotely comprehensible, but you were going to read the Silmarillion
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anyways, weren't you?
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LibraryThing member antiquary
To me, some of the best post-LOTR material
published after Tolkien's death, much better than the 1977 version of the Simarillion
LibraryThing member upstairsgirl
By no means an easy read, the Unifished Tales are, I suspect, best read immediately following the Silmarillion. Since I hadn't done this, I had difficulty keeping track of where in time and space things were going on, and difficulty relating them back to the parts of the Tolkien's world with which
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I was already familiar. Definitely worthwhile, but not to be taken on lightly.
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LibraryThing member jolerie
Unfinished Tales is comprised of many side stories that occurs in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy written by Tolkien. Great book if you are able to endure endless details about seemingly random people and occurrences. Hardcore Tolkien fans will appreciate his ability to never exhaust a story
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but for the average fan, the sheer amount of details given in this book tends to drag rather than offer any significant illumination to the original series.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
I can only recommend this to rabid fans and completists. But I certainly enjoyed reading it again. There's lots of LotR background here, and fleshing out of certain stories (the death of Theodred for one, and the backstory of Galadriel & Celeborn). I liked how Christopher Tolkien presented numerous
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forms of a story, if numerous forms were found in his father's notes. I remain torn about how JRRT would have felt about all of his marginalia being edited & published, but it doesn't really matter and is only idle speculation. I say it adds to the canon, and therefore it's okay by me.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
This was long and somewhat tedious to read. Except for my love of Middle Earth and the curiosity about that realm and its history, I never could have plowed through it. There were, however, some very fair tales included that made for a good read. I find it most difficult to keep up with the many
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names and titles of individuals and places (also in English history), but this had an excellent index which was a great help.
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LibraryThing member Ailinel
Unfinished Tales is a collection of writings edited (or with additional notes) by Christopher Tolkien. The tales provide further detail on parts of the journeys of Tuor and Túrin, the tale of Aldarion and Erendis (The Mariner and His Wife), the history of the characters Galadriel and Celeborn, the
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Istari, and more. The combination of tales, essays, and notes on various aspects of Arda is fascinating to a Tolkien fan, though it is necessary to be familiar with stories such as that of the Children of Hurin from The Silmarillion before reading Unfinished Tales which in some cases tells a complete tale (as with The Mariner and his Wife), but in others, such as with Tuor, the writing expands on parts of the journey without including its beginning or end (leaving a reader without prior knowledge missing information that is vital to understand the situation). The stories range from the First Age to the end of the Third Age and provide both a greater understanding of Arda and of Tolkien’s thought process and the various iterations of characters and stories that he went through.
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LibraryThing member katieloucks
I loved it! So much good information to go with everything else.
LibraryThing member feeroberts64
Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien is a collection of stories that further relate to the events in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings and tells more about the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring.

I loved reading Unfinished Tales of
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Númenor and Middle-earth as I hadn't read this book before. It added to the stories that I am already familiar with. This is a great addition for collector's of Tolkien's work.
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LibraryThing member ben_a
Found in a B&B and read desultorily. The main connected story is the doomed romance of Aldarion and Erendis. Tellingly, my sympathy was most evoked for Aldarion's father.

This reminds me of the superiority of Tolkein's narrative style to his un-mixed legendary style.
LibraryThing member mattries37315
The legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is vast and not everything was fully written out, however that doesn’t mean the incomplete material isn’t interesting. Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth is a complication various stories begun and partially revised by J.R.R. Tolkien
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then edited into a somewhat readable fashion, along with alternate versions, by his son Christopher that reveal backstories from all Ages of Tolkien’s world.

The first two-thirds of the book covers the First and Second Ages with focuses in the former on Tuor journey to Gondolin and more details to the Children of Hurin while the latter focused on various elements of Numenorian history and the history of Galadriel and Celeborn. The last third of the book focuses on the Third Age with background stories and histories to various events and people that feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from the disaster at Gladden Field when Isildur dies and the One Ring is lost to the foundation of the friendship of Gondor and Rohan to the Battles of the Fords of Isen and Gandalf’s view of the Quest of Erebor and the Nazgul’s hunt for the One Ring. And on top of those backstories are histories on various people and items featured in the four books, namely the order of the Wizards.

Unlike The Silmarillion in which Christopher Tolkien edited his father’s writing into narrative chronicle, he left his father’s work unfinished and supplemented them with alternative versions that his father hadn’t rejected. This decision made the first two-thirds of the book a chore to get through or simple something to skim, however in the last third of the book the tales and histories were essentially complete with only some details not decided upon by the elder Tolkien before his death thus making for a better read. Frankly it’s this final third which is the highlight of the book especially anything related to the elder Tolkien’s most famous works, in particular is “The Quest of Erebor” that connects The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together than just the One Ring.

Like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales is for hardcore Tolkien enthusiasts that want every detail they can get from J.R.R. Tolkien. Though the final third of the book has material that general readers might enjoy if they loved the author’s two well-known books, it might not be worth the money to buy this book new for it.
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LibraryThing member threadnsong
Read it without really understanding how these individual tales really fit into the larger corpus. Now that I have read and re-read Tolkien's works, I appreciate these deeper tales that flesh out these mythological characters. I especially now like the back stories of the Third Age; in my earlier
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years, I wanted Lord of the Rings to remain LOTR with its lovely words and actions and no interference" from earlier notes.

I remember the first time I read it, on Christmas morning, hearing my inner voice speaking in the words of this book. Very powerful hold, it was.

I'm so very, very glad it was published, and I appreciate the work that Christopher Tolkien has given his life and privacy to ensure happens."
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LibraryThing member Banoczi_Henrietta
the first half i did not care for at all, but the rest was quite informative.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
This volume is really for the true Tolkien nerd; if you've read all the Appendices and The Silmarilion and still want more, this will be right up your alley. It consists mostly of notes, fragments, and essays rather than complete stories; many of the narratives break off suddenly. I really enjoyed
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it, though, and found it fascinating, particularly the section regarding the Istari, or wizards, and their origins. The section on Galadriel and Celeborn is also fascinating if, like me, you kind of have a crush on Galadriel. ;)
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LibraryThing member GlennBell
This book includes some background and clarification of information that relates to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Some of the content is notes and I did not read this information. Some of the stories were interesting and rivaled those in the published books. The new TV series on the Rings
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of Power relates to some information about Numenor. This book is better than The Simarillion but not as good as the earlier published works.
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Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — 1981)


Original publication date


Physical description

496 p.; 7.7 inches


0048232084 / 9780048232083
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