April 12, 2018

One Tolkien over the line… and other puns to celebrate the publication of more stories from Middle Earth


Trench fever: It’s a pretty serious infection that’s spread by body lice. Symptoms include a fever that lasts five days and pain in the legs. Recovery can take months, and sometimes leaves lifelong nerve issues.

It was common in World War I, when as many as one in five soldiers contracted it — including J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was while convalescing and reflecting on the malaise of war that Tolkien began writing the epic tales that would comprise the vast fantasy expanse that is Middle Earth. Principally, he wrote the unpublished story of Gondolin, a hidden city of elves in Beleriand. (Translation for the uninitiated: really cool, human-like immortal built a secret city that the bad gods couldn’t find… in the land of the gods!)

Thanks to his ninety-three-year-old son, another of Tolkien’s wondrous tales will be published in August of this year. Unless you’re one of those lying non-readers of Tolkien, this is very exciting news.

As Gael Fashingbauer Cooper reports for CNET, this story takes place thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, during a time in which the Valar (read: gods) tried consolidating all of the elves away from Middle Earth. For fans, the story here connects more closely with events in The Silmarillion, which traces the legends of the creation of the elves.

Unfortunately, whoever wrote the book description for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt seems to want to give away huge chunks of the story. I won’t post any of the spoilers here, but shame on you, HMH, shame!

With dirty-rotten Amazon creatingLOTR show for at least five seasons, and spending a billion dollars to it, a new book must make fans as giddy as Gollum with a precious. Or maybe “giddy gollum” is an orcsymoron…

Sorry. I’ll just let myself out now.


UPDATE: We realize that Valinor is not technically in Middle Earth. We were using “Middle Earth” as a metonym for “the world of Lord of the Rings.” It is, in other words, a figure of speech. We still love you. After a painstaking process of deep reflection and consultation with the appropriate texts, we wish to apologize for the assertion, in an early version of this piece, that Gondolin is in Valinor. It is, of course, in Beleriand. We regret the error.



Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.