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Stuart Dunn takes a look at a new edition of one of J.R.R. Tolkien's biggest works.

March 25 is my birthday. In addition to it being the Solemnity of the Annunciation, it is also Tolkien Reading Day, and if you’re a big Tolkien nerd like me, it is also the day the One Ring was destroyed. Therefore, on my birthday I like to get a new Tolkien book, when possible, or something Tolkien related. I don’t think I’ll be getting one this year, as I have nearly every one of his works, but today, I would like to tell you about one of his biggest works, The History of Middle Earth.

history of middle earth box set

Recently, re-published in 2020, The History of Middle Earth is a three-volume hardcover set spanning over 5,000 pages. It was previously a 12-volume set, published over the span of 13 years, but you’re hard pressed now to find those books in a matching format. Included in these tomes are Lost Tales, what looks to be his first Silmarillion, History of the Lord of the Rings, and other works of historical interest.

The most fascinating parts to me are the four books covering the History of the Lord of the Rings. In these volumes, you can see Tolkien’s mind at work, and read his revisions, thoughts, and character development. You can ponder how the story might have been different had Tolkien went down one path instead of the one he settled on. For example, Aragorn was not always Aragorn, but was instead a hobbit known as Trotter. Clearly, Tolkien made a good choice with that revision. Other things we learn about are how the One Ring gained its power, the first appearance of a Black Rider, and many other interesting facts. I also love seeing all the maps and visiting sections of the book, mapping out the journey to Mordor, where famous battles took place, etc. Tolkien really did build an amazing world!


In these volumes, you can see Tolkien’s mind at work, and read his revisions, thoughts, and character development. #catholicmom

These books are not an easy read. You have to really love Tolkien and history to work your way through them. You also have to go into it knowing that you won’t get a full picture of Tolkien’s work, but just what his son Christopher could piece together from all of the various sources his father left unfinished. We are forever in his son’s debt for providing us with more of his Tolkien’s writings than we could have ever hoped for.

I recommend this box set with a few caveats.

1. It is a bit expensive at $250. I have seen it on sale at Amazon and Target recently, but it’s still $100+, so it might be too pricey to consider unless you plan on doing serious research.
2. The pages are super thin! If you’ve ever had a fancy Bible or prayer book, then you know what I am talking about. You can see through the pages when reading and are worried you’ll rip them without delicately handling the book.

Therefore, I give this book set 5 stars for content and 3 stars for quality.

Copyright 2021 Stuart Dunn
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