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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Reading order of Tolkien material

Misty Mountain Hop

Oct 13 2013, 3:27am

Post #1 of 10 (287 views)
Reading order of Tolkien material Can't Post

I'm sure that this has been asked/posted at some time in the past, but since I don't normally follow this section of the forums too much, I haven't read anything relating to this.

I am wondering what the best order is to read all of the background books (Unfinished Tales, Children of Hurin, etc.)

I've read LOTR, The Hobbit, and parts of The Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, and The War of the Ring.

"Only, you've never done a hard day's work." - Merry

Tol Eressea

Oct 13 2013, 3:41am

Post #2 of 10 (196 views)
Personally.... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that you need to so the Silmarillion first. It gives a general overview that can be filled in by the other books.


Oct 13 2013, 5:19am

Post #3 of 10 (189 views)
My personal order of books [In reply to] Can't Post

I read LOTR followed by the Silmarilion (6x so it would sink in and truly resonate). Then I read History of Middle Earth, Shaping of Middle Earth which provide additional information, sometimes older versions which may not reflect canon but provide insight into the world created and the author's intentions. Then I read Book of Lost Tales. I have not yet read Morgoth's Ring or War of the Jewels though I have planned to for almost five years now.

Allow not the shadows of the Enemy to dull your courage or shatter your resolve. We are yet to all pass from the walls of Arda. The light of Aman still shines upon our fair faces, for we are the Calaquendi.


Oct 13 2013, 7:18am

Post #4 of 10 (167 views)
Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Sil pretty much covers the rest of the legendarium. Some people find the creation myth at the beginning too abstract and off-putting, but others love it. If you have trouble making it through that part, skip to the Quenta Silmarillion, where the plot really takes off.

When I first read it, someone here advised me to make full-sized copies of the genealogical charts and maps, put them in plastic sheet-protectors, and keep them hand. It really pays off!

Most of the other HoME volumes and Children of Hurin are either alternative versions of tales in the Sil or essays on various topics. Both are terrific once you've gotten the whole picture from reading the Sil.


Oct 13 2013, 7:21am

Post #5 of 10 (174 views)
I highly recommend Morgoth's Ring. [In reply to] Can't Post

Some of the essays in it cover "all you really wanted to know" background, of which my favorites are:

"Laws and Customs among the Eldar" Several essays and legends on the Eldar, particularly mating and naming customs of the Elves, and Tolkien's conceptions of the soul and body.

"Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" A discussion between two characters, the Elven king Finrod Felagund and Andreth, a mortal woman, about the tragedy of death and immortality and the way Elves and Men suffer their different sorrows; and about the healing of death by the Resurrection and the Incarnation.


Oct 13 2013, 6:37pm

Post #6 of 10 (138 views)
Could not agree more.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Outside of The Silmarillion, Morgoth's Ring was my favorite. I really liked the compare/contrast essay that Tolkien wrote in regards to Morgoth and Sauron, which is also in Morgoth's Ring. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth is sensational. Morgoth's Ring is a must read for any fan of the first age of Middle Earth.


Oct 13 2013, 9:21pm

Post #7 of 10 (126 views)
Morgoth's Ring & The War of the Jewels [In reply to] Can't Post

The 'Myths Transformed' section in Morgoth's Ring is one of my favourite Tolkien essays. The discussion on the differences between Morgoth and Sauron draws together so many of the legendarium's most intriguing themes.

Also worth the effort are the 'Grey Annals', reproduced in The War of the Jewels. Annalistic in form, it provides some really interesting detail that didn't make The Silmarillion. 'The Wanderings of Hurin' is also a gripping read, picking up where the Narn leaves off, and covering the destruction of the House of Haleth..

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk

Misty Mountain Hop

Oct 13 2013, 9:45pm

Post #8 of 10 (125 views)
Sounds like I have a lot of reading to do!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Can't wait. Thanks!

"Only, you've never done a hard day's work." - Merry


Oct 18 2013, 11:28pm

Post #9 of 10 (80 views)
Sil followed by Unfinished Tales [In reply to] Can't Post

I actually read UT before the Sil, but I think it works best immediately following it. It elaborates on a couple of the stories (the Tale of Turin, Tour's journey to Gondolin) and has lots of neat other stuff (I recently re-read the essays on the Istari and "wild men").

The HoME books are cool but I would think they'd make for better reading once you've finished his other books (UT, Children) just because a lot of them are more academic in nature. I recently finished the History of Middle Earth box set and really enjoyed it; in a couple months I'll probably dig into War of the Jewels and Morgoth's Ring.

"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go."


Oct 18 2013, 11:31pm

Post #10 of 10 (99 views)
Also check out The New Shadow [In reply to] Can't Post

It's Tolkien's aborted sequel to LotR and can be found in the last volume of HoME, The Peoples of Middle Earth. It's only a few pages, barely enough to make an entire chapter. It's pretty fascinating and always leaves me wondering "what might have been?" I still hope one day an over-zealous fan will attempt to finish it for online publication....

"There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go."


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