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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
HoME: Where do I start?


Jul 9 2013, 1:12pm

Post #1 of 8 (229 views)
HoME: Where do I start? Can't Post

So I've read Silm and UT, and I'm keen to read HoME. But before I rush out and buy them (or borrow them from the library), I wondered if anyone had any suggestions about reading order, or which editions are better, etc.

Thanks so much,

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'

(This post was edited by Lothwen on Jul 9 2013, 1:13pm)


Jul 9 2013, 2:28pm

Post #2 of 8 (162 views)
Start at the very beginning [In reply to] Can't Post

The Book of Lost Tales parts 1 & 2. Then read through everything in order, I'd say. If you don't want to read the evolution of LOTR, you could skip volumes 6-9, but I think that would be a pity as they are utterly fascinating.

I don't know anything about differences between editions. I have the pocket-sized paperbacks for 1-5, large paperbacks for 6-8, and original hardcovers for the final few. The only trouble I have with my paperbacks is that references to the prior works aren't the same as they are in the original hardbacks which can make finding passages more difficult.

Have fun on your journey through them! They're great reads Smile

"...not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall.
As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last.
For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men,
it is bitter to receive." -Arwen Undómiel


Jul 9 2013, 4:42pm

Post #3 of 8 (154 views)
I'd start with the book containing what interested me the most... [In reply to] Can't Post

... be it Elves, the lay of Beren and Lúthien, or the LotR background. I personally found HoMEs 1 and 2 bewildering with the utterly strange or mixed-up pre-Silmarillion names, so I read the last volumes first (as I was interested in the discussions of Elves and their natures present in 10 and 12), and returned to the first ones afterwards. It was much less cofusing for me that way.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


Jul 9 2013, 6:28pm

Post #4 of 8 (130 views)
Pick one tale, and follow it through the series [In reply to] Can't Post

This only works if you have access to all of them, like through your library as you suggested. But it worked for me. I first gained access to HoME by picking one of the basic chapters of The Silmarillion and tracing it through its multiple incarnations.

You might pick the poisoning of the Two Trees, for example. Look for how that tale is presented in the quaint and antique-y 'Book of Lost Tales' (Vols 1 & 2), in the poems of 'Lays of Beleriand' (Vol 3), in the various rewrites of the "Sketch", "Quenta", "Quenta Silmarillion", and "Annals" of the later 1920s and 1930s (Vols. 4 & 5), and finally in the retold Annals and Silmarillion revisions of the post-war, post-LotR period (Vols. 10, 11, & 12). [Note that this scheme skips the LotR/Numenor volumes 6-9, but they are rightly regarded as a kind of sub-series and can be studied almost completely separately.]

Sure, the method is sketchy, complex, and involves a lot of dipping in and out, using the index, etc. But the advantage is, you will fairly quickly get a kind of mental picture of how HoME works as a whole. It is a huge work. It's the manuscript history of a connected body of tales (The Silmarillion/LotR/Akallabeth) for which there happen to be half a dozen manuscripts (more or less) stretching over 40 or 50 years of composition. By the time you've tracked your one tale through all those versions, you'll have encountered a lot of other tantalizing threads and narratives and editorial choices by Christopher Tolkien. You'll have a better sense of what you'll find interesting on your second pass-through. And you'll be pretty sure about whether or not you want to read the entire thing, straight through, after all.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Jul 9 2013, 7:03pm

Post #5 of 8 (130 views)
In the middle. [In reply to] Can't Post

HoME isn't a "history of Middle Earth" at all. It's more of a history of Tolkien's concept of ME and its many stories. What parts will please you most depends on the nature of your interest in Middle Earth.

I found Vols 6-9, tracing the evolution of LotR, absolutely fascinating (e.g.: "Aragorn" started out as an eccentric hobbit named Trotter, with wooden feet due to a bad experience in Mordor). And because I like background info, I love the essays in Morgoth's Ring (V. 10), which are similar to the essays in UT on the Istari, palantiri, etc.


Jul 10 2013, 11:55am

Post #6 of 8 (94 views)
Thank you everyone [In reply to] Can't Post

For your replies; I'm hoping to find some 2nd hand HoME for now.

As for the reading order, I think I will try to see what works best for me of all your suggestions. Wink I did once flick through vol. 6, and it looked fascinating, so I might begin with LotR. I'll have to see when I get them.


'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'

The Shire

Jul 27 2013, 5:55pm

Post #7 of 8 (68 views)
... [In reply to] Can't Post

You might find the LotR part of the History a familiar ground, but whatever your choice of order, make sure you read volumes 1 and 2, The Book of Lost Tales. You will see not only the origins of the legendarium, but also the rich, detailed and vivid writing that could have carried on to the published version if it weren't for the extreme condensation and simplification of the material. The published Silmarillion is a little more than a summary and a quick overview of Tolkien's legendarium.

The Fall of Gondolin in the Book of Lost Tales is some of the most epic and touching storytelling you will see from Tolkien.



Jul 28 2013, 1:15pm

Post #8 of 8 (64 views)
Oh, I definitely will [In reply to] Can't Post

I adore all things Gondolin. Blush Laugh (Tuor and his coming to Gondolin in UT was really cool; I was quite upset when it finished so abruptly.)

The funny thing with Tolkien, is that the more I read of his writing, the more I realize how little I've read. Crazy

Followed by that awkwarder moment when you realize that you think this is awesome...


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