Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth.
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien.
Editor(s): Christopher Tolkien.
Illustrator(s): Alan Lee, John Howe & Ted Nasmith.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: October 20th, 2020.
Original release date: October 1st, 1980.
Pages: 528.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13: 9780358448921.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Published after The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien achieves a similar posthumous feat in collecting and editing multiple unfinished tales by his father and presenting them in chronological order while also preserving their content and soulful essence. Guiding readers into his father’s epic legacy, further elaborating the unequivocal Middle-earth legendarium, he unveils numerous tales from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring. Despite these stories remaining unfinished, only portions of larger ideas that have never taken shape, he does a formidable job of giving passionate fans a taste of all that could’ve been within his father’s world. In this 40th anniversary edition, on top of Christopher Tolkien’s redrawn maps with additional features and names, 18 full-colour paintings by John Howe, Alan Lee, and Ted Nasmith are also interspersed across the myriad of chapters giving this book a premium touch.

What is Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth about? Split into four parts with each tale followed up with notes and appendices, the first section of the collection begins with the story of Tuor Eladar, son of Huor and Rían, who sets off on a quest to find the city of Gondolin, bearing a message from Ulmo. This is then followed up with a lengthier version of the tale of The Children of Húrin (Narn i Hîn Húrin), as it follows the tragic fates of Húrin and his children Túrin Turambar and Nienor. The second part of the collection contains a description of the Island of Númenor, the story of the mariner Aldarion and his wife Erendis, a brief presentation of the line of Elros, and the history of Galadriel and Celeborn. The third section begins with Isildur’s tragic death in the Gladden Fields and follows up with the story behind Cirion and Eorl, the quest of Erebor, the hunt for the ring, and the battles of the Fords of Isen. The final part contains three chapters exploring the race of men called the Drúedain, the origin behind the wizards known as the Istari, and the history of the artifacts known as the Palantíri.

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

J.R.R. Tolkien

Although many of these tales end abruptly or lack the delicate narrative flow reminiscent of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, it’s what readers are rewarded in Middle-earth lore that makes this endeavor all the more worthwhile. Further accentuating the epic and unimaginable scope of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and his unparalleled imagination, these stories help further flesh out some of the most fascinating, at times quintessential, events that led to what’s better known as the Third Age. A huge portion of this collection also pertains to a lengthier version of The Children of Húrin, which was not only already summarized in The Silmarillion (it is highly recommended to read it before cracking open this book if you are to grasp an iota of the references that it beholds) but also later merited its own book, containing even more details and twists that fans will happily indulge in and dream about.

Unlike The Silmarillion, this collection highlights far less of the plethora of creatures that once roamed this world, with only Glaurung playing a crucial role in The Children of Húrin, but introduces and delves deeper into the numerous characters and their destinies, the complex relationships they had with others and themselves, and the motives that drive them and are at the heart of countless conflicts. Some of the far more enthralling elements also reside in the knowledge pertaining to several events that occur but aren’t disclosed in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, such as Gandalf’s discussion with Thorin to convince him to bring Bilbo with him to the Lonely Mountains, the events that lead to the death of Theodred, or even the unexpected exchange between the Witch-King and Grima Wormtongue. Fervent fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world will find this collection indispensable to further discover this beloved man’s imagination and the finer points of his creation.

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth is a wondrous collection of tales unearthing enchanting lore material within J.R.R. Tolkien’s spellbinding world.



34 thoughts on “Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. You’re just going crazy on Tolkien! Watch out or you might never be able to enjoy anything else. I liked how you tied this book in with the others from the author so that one that has not read them might make a more educated decision on which to start with.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Now I’m officially jealous. My battered mass market paper copy against this gorgeous copy with Alan Lee art, at that. 🙂 I enjoyed reading your summary review because my memories were fuzzy after all these years. I hadn’t decided what I would read for Tolkien Day, but I think you nudged me toward this one. Thanks, Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting stuff. I am kind of annoyed with how much overlap there is between all these posthumous publications. The story of Tuor has received a full treatment with the 2018 book The Fall of Gondolin, and Turin’s story in the 2007 book The Children of Hurin. Thanks to your review I now know that I won’t have to buy the Unfinished Tales because I’ve already read these other publications.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a bit saddened by the idea that there’s a bunch of overlap between many of these publications but I somehow learned to appreciate them for the subtle differences and the possibility of better understanding these stories (and even the contradictions). I’m going to get through those complete Great Tales in the near future but something tells me those will be the better versions of the stories to pick up if you only want to know about those stories. Unfinished Tales does have other unrelated-to-the-Great-Tales tidbits that are fun to learn about if you have the patience for it all! Thanks for reading, Jeroen! 😀


  4. Part of what I found so fascinating as I started the first LOTR book was hints of things that had gone before, so this sounds like something I should probably add to my TBR list for when I’m done with the original trilogy. Perhaps The Silmarillion should be on my list too. I can’t imagine tiring of this world any time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re going through exactly what I’m going through these past few months haha! Once you’ll finish The Return of the King, I’m sure you’ll know if it’s time to tackle the other books. Be warned that they aren’t written like The Lord of the Rings, at all, but further build-up the world and its rich mythos! 😀 Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I still remember when I first saw and picked up a copy of this book, long ago in a bookstore in Germany as we were getting ready to fly back to the states. It was a UK trade paperback edition. And I’ve still yet to read through it. One day I’ll read them all!! 🙂 Glad to hear you’re still enjoying this journey. I’ve no doubt I will, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reading your review, and remembering these stories, I wonder once again what Tolkien could have done with such a rich world (and rich imagination!) if he had been free from the “chores” of teaching, grading papers and so forth and had the freedom to write as much as he longed for….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this book. I have a paperback version though with Bilbo (I assume) on the cover- this version with the artwork sounds fabulous. I love the little buts we get- especially the extra information on the Istari. This makes me want to read this again and also The Silmarillion.

    I’m a huge fan of Nasmith’s art for Middle- earth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found it so fascinating to learn about the Istari too. They really do just appear out of the blue and play their role quite wonderfully (at least Gandalf does) hahaha Same here, Greg. I love all three’s artwork but I couldn’t say which one I’d pick over the others though! Thanks for reading, sir. I really appreciate it! 🙂


  8. It seems like you have been on a Tolkien binge recently! I never got further than LOTR and The Hobbit. This one sounds like a wonderful way to dig further into Tolkien’s world and get to know more background for characters we already know. I might have to find a copy!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Are you planning to read everything written by Tolkien, Lashaan? 😄 That’s a great idea, and I expect you to report everything back here afterwards ahah! I’d love to read this one, but I think I’d have to re-read the Silmarillion first, as I got so completely lost in all the names and genealogy that I’m pretty sure I’d get lost even more in the Unfinished Tales! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahah I’m quite addicted to Tolkien’s stuff this year and will probably continue down that road as long as it lasts! 😛 I definitely recommend diving into Unfinished Tales not too long after the Silmarillion. It will help A LOT. I also think re-reading TLOR after The Silmarillion actually enriches the experience, as you finally understand the references and what not! 😀 Thanks for reading, Juliette! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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