Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is the first work that showed us how J.R.R. Tolkien’s obsessive perfectionism was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gave us the wonderfully deep world and implied distances of THE LORD OF THE RINGS; and on the other hand it left us with a jumble of tales in various states of revision and development that had to be compiled by Tolkien’s son Christopher into some form as The Silmarillion… a jumble of tales that, if they had been finished, would have given us a truly staggering body of work.
Just reading the fragment that makes up the entirety of “Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin” makes me weep for what might have been. Given the chance to expand even half of the partial tales from The Silmarillion into something equating the full treatment of THE LORD OF THE RINGS would have been a wonder indeed.
Even given the incomplete nature of the works herein, the reader is greatly repaid the effort of reading them even though many tantalizing questions are left unanswered. We get perhaps the only significant view of the land of Númenor in the Second Age; intriguing glimpses into the nature of the Istari, the Woodwoses, and the Palantiri; and expansions on the background of the Third Age and the events that led up to both The Hobbit and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth is a really amazing work and an enjoyable read if you’re a die-hard Tolkien fan.
I was a huge fan of Tolkien as a teenager, and re-reading the LOTR a decade or so ago the magic was still there. But I have to say that the Silmarillion left me totally unmoved, then and now. I don’t sense that there really WERE stories comparable to the finished works inherent in these “tales,” rather that they were an incredibly robust version of just the kind of backstory that the best SF&F writers always do (Jack Vance as a particularly fine example). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that these “notes” could or would have ever emerged as completed narratives. Just giving my perspective.