J.R.R. Tolkien discussion

First & Second Ages > Unfinished Tales

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message 1: by Meirav (new)

Meirav Rath | 2 comments I read Unfinished Tales a little while ago and though I very much enjoyed the very-near-complete stories, the rest of the snippets were a little too disjointed for me. Also, I felt the style of writing was much heavier than in LoTR, as if Tolkien didn't have the chance to go over them and refine to language or remove overly extensive landscape and plot-less travel descriptions.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same.

message 2: by Joro (new)

Joro I agree. My favourite book by Tolkien is the Silmarillion and it is not an easy book to read too (mainly because of the genealogy and the extensive list of names you have to remember in order to properly keep track of everything that happens) but The Unfinished tales were - as rightly mentioned above - too disjoited even compared to the Silmarillion which was edited and published after his death too.

message 3: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 19 comments Meirav et al.,

The Unfinished Tales and the subsequent Histories of Middle Earth are the edited notes of Tolkien's world and you shouldn't expect "jointedness," nor a great deal of polish. But that's what makes them so interesting to read: Seeing how Tolkien constructed Middle Earth and how his conceptions changed over the years.

My personal favorites are the last three in the series, Morgoth's Ring, The War of the Jewels, and The Peoples of Middle Earth. In particular, Morgoth's Ring, which contains the story (stories) of Finwe and Miriel and how death came to Valinor; an essay on the laws and customs of the Eldar; and a philosophical discussion between Finrod Felagund and a human wisewoman concerning the nature of existence (Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth).

And, if your interested in languages, Sauron Defeated (vol. IX) contains the only fully developed essay on any of Tolkien's languages (written by Tolkien, anyway) -- Adunaic.

message 4: by Eli (new)

Eli Hmmm, I know this is a REALLY old thread, but just wanted to say that I recently finished Unfinished Tales and I LOVED it. I literally could not put it down. I almost cried reading about Beleg and the sections dealing with Gondolin brought out my inner uber-geek with a passion. To each their own, I suppose. While I enjoyed the Silmarillion, I was practically drooling over Unfinished Tales. :)

message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris | 6 comments The unfinished tales were really good because I am olny in 8th grade I have some trouble with the intesnty of the reading but it was a really good book and I managed to get through it if you want light Tolkien reading go with the adventures of Tom bombadial.:)

message 6: by Moon (new)

Moon | 20 comments I liked the chapter dealing with the Wizards in this book.

message 7: by Sidhe (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments I actually loved all of Unfinished Tales because I'm so curious by nature and the stories provided interesting background and answers to at least some of the intriguing questions that Tolkien brings up. I have to say, however, being an avid amateur mythologist and a lover of all things fey, I most love the tales about elves and the tales that have recognizable basis in lore and ancient history.

message 8: by Dennis (new)

Dennis | 11 comments I believe the very best fictional stories (science & otherwise) we read are the ones that we really wish were true. And that goes triple for Tolkien stories.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

People often undervalue the fact that Tolkien was old when he wrote all this. I know he'd been working on it specifically (as The Book of Lost Tales) since about 1912. But the reason that the characters, histories, languages, and mythologies of his stories are so vivid that one could take them as our own history if one didn't know better is that Tolkien had sixty years of his stories' evolution under his belt. Very few have had that dedication in history, and none but Tolkien to apply it to fictional history.

message 10: by Sidhe (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments Very true... Tolkien really was an exceptional writer and man. The result of his hard work and great love for his world were books and tales that changed Fantasy literature forever. He not only continued developing his realm, but mixed in bits of existing mythology and ancient history. He created back stories so intricate that they mimic actual life. Because of that to many of us it seems as if Middle Earth was real, and many of us wish it truly was.

message 11: by Moon (new)

Moon | 20 comments From reading The Silmarillion and now Unfinished Tales, I find Isildur to be an intriguing character.

message 12: by Sidhe (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments He really is. In some ways I think he's one of the most realistic, or at least the most human. He's basically good, but he has his flaws. He tries to do the right thing, but he makes mistakes, and in the end he is too weak to give up the One Ring. I don't know... to me he just always seemed more like someone you might meet on the street.

message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 16, 2010 05:19PM) (new)

He began conceptually as one of Tolkien's heroes. But Isildur became, in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's symbol or manifestation of corruptability in all men. We, as readers, never know really whether the Ring is wholly to blame for the evil it causes: Tolkien was a big believer in the wretchedness, or at least fundamental weakness, of people's hearts—that Power and Influence are so addictive that neither the heroic Isildur nor the pastoral hobbit, Frodo, can ultimately turn his back on them in the end.

message 14: by Sidhe (last edited Aug 05, 2010 09:41AM) (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments I agree... In some ways the One Ring almost seems like a symbol for all the weak and corrupt things in people's hearts-- the universal Tragic Flaw, if you will. Or maybe I'm just projecting... Any way, I still like the fact that Isildur-- along with so many of Tolkien's heroes-- are fallible. Heroic characters who are nonetheless true to life are one of the things I love about JRR Tolkien's work!

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I listened to a lecture on Tolkien and Fantasy by some University-professor a while back, and he came to discuss the essential literary substance of the Ring. He made the point that the Ring is intrinsically evil, and that Tolkien intended it so. But I don't think so, necessarily: Gandalf and all the other characters call the Ring intrinsically evil because it is absolute Power (or something similar). Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel all fear the Ring because, as Gandalf says, they should try to use it 'out of a desire to do good', but it would turn him, through its hold over his mind, always to evil. Tolkien's point, whether the Ring is intrinsically evil, remains the same: if there is no human limit to what we are allowed or capable of doing, we will always abuse such power. Even Isildur, who fights the Ring's creator and destroys him, who has done such a great good against so great an evil, takes the Ring and falls.
But Tolkien is always ambiguous about the Ring: that is what we may say about it. We never know whether it really does betray Gollum, or whether Gollum lets it fall; did it slip off Isildur's finger by it's own will? It is obvious that the Ring has some will of its own, but it is never obvious when that will is affecting a character, or whether that character's own will is to blame. That is why I love the Ring as an invention so much, and The Hobbit, for all its fun, just doesn't have anything quite as thematic or interesting as the One Ring.

message 16: by Erin (new)

Erin Kahn | 36 comments I found I really enjoyed the Quest for Erebor section of Unfinished Tales, that might be a good place to start for readers who are having a hard time with the denser material.

message 17: by L (new)

L | 132 comments Felt compelled to share a Quote from Unfinished Tales --

"Fear both the heat and the cold of your heart, and try to have patience, if you can"

[Time heals wounds_ or so I am told?]

another Quote --

"False hopes are more dangerous than fears," said Sador, "and they will not keep us warm this winter." Chapter 2, p. 76

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