The Lost Road and Other Writings: Language and Legend Before the "Lord of the Rings" (History of Middle-Earth S.)

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Paperback, 1989



Call number




HarperCollins (1989), Paperback


At the end of the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien reluctantly set aside his now greatly elaborated work on the myths and heroic legends of Valinor and Middle-earth and began The Lord of the Rings. This fifth volume of The History of Middle-earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien, completes the presentation of the whole compass of his writing on those themes up to that time. Later forms of the Annuals of Valinor and the Annals of Berleriand had been composed, The Silmarillion was nearing completion in a greatly amplified version, and a new map had been made; the myth of the Music of the Ainur had become a separate work; and the legend of the Downfall of Numenor had already entered in a primitive form, introducing the cardinal ideas of the World Made Round and the Straight Path into the vanished West. Closely associated with this was the abandoned time-travel story, The Lost Road, which was to link the world of Numenor and Middle-earth with the legends of many other times and peoples. A long essay, The Lhammas, had been written on the ever more complex relations of the languages and dialects of Middle-earth; and an etymological dictionary had been undertaken, in which a great number of words and names in the Elvish languages were registered and their formation explained - thus providing by far the most extensive account of their vocabularies that has appeared.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MyopicBookworm
There is little in this volume to interest any but the most dedicated of Tolkien enthusiasts.

Part I, The Lost Road, presents draft fragments of an ambitious mythological fantasy, intended to span the centuries backwards from the Oxford of the 20th century, through unfolding layers of Germanic
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history and legend, to the fall of Atlantis, following pairs of father and son figures through the generations. (Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill must surely have been an inspiration.) After two pairs of short chapters it peters out. The Atlantis story at its heart was eventually to emerge as the tale of Numenor in The Silmarillion. The attempt to frame this tale within a modern character's dreams (of an implausibly linguistic nature) resurfaced in The Notion Club Papers. The germs of some interesting ideas are here embedded in a narrative of stunning turgidity. Tolkien's tendency towards archaizing chronicle is here exacerbated by having much of the action recounted in stilted dialogue between the characters, who are transparently projections of aspects of Tolkien's own personality and obsessions. It might seem amazing that the author of this awkward, pale, post-pre-Raphaelite thee-and-thou prose managed to transform himself into a formidable writer of modern English, though it is hardly fair to judge a writer on the basis of some initial and ultimately abortive sketches. The section most worthy of note is a 150-line piece of alliterative verse called "King Sheave", marginal to the main text but evocative. Another, "The Nameless Land" or "The Song of Aelfwine", is complex in verse-structure, modelled on the medieval poem Pearl, but the content is low-grade "elfin" stuff.

Part II consists of draft sections of the Silmarillion which add little to the published text. Part III, The Etymologies, will excite only those who would read a dictionary of Sumerian for fun. MB 21-vi-2007
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LibraryThing member ex_ottoyuhr
At one point, Lewis observed to Tolkien that since there weren't enough stories being writtten of the sort that they wanted to read, they'd have to write them themselves. Lewis committed to writing a book about space travel, Tolkien about time travel; Lewis' commitment developed into his Space
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Trilogy (/Out of the Silent Planet/, /Perelandra/, /That Hideous Strength/), while Tolkien's project -- to be titled /The Lost Road/ -- never managed to come together. This is the debris of that project: interesting reading, but you can see why it never quite worked...
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LibraryThing member threadnsong
Again, one of these days. I really need to spend some time reading all of these.


Original publication date


Physical description

464 p.; 7.72 inches


0044403984 / 9780044403982
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