Reading Tolkien

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Where should I start?

My suggestion is that you begin with these books, none of these should be completely unknown to you:

  1. The Hobbit (1937)
  2. The Lord of the Rings Triology
    1. The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
    2. The Two Towers (1954)
    3. The Return of the King (1955)
  3. The Silmarillion (1977)

The Silmarillion is chronologically earlier than the others, though due to it’s narrative form it is difficult to begin. I think it is more wise to start with The Hobbit. It introduces a lot of the concept of ideas in an easy and comprehensive way. The book is told by a narrator focusing on one character’s perspective, which is comfortable.

Having read that, you have a good foundation to start reading The Lord of the Rings Trilogy which is a bit more complicated in it’s narrative style since it focuses on many characters. It continues some years after where The Hobbit left of and the story give wider perspective on Middle-Earth. Both Hobbit and Rings hints at there being a lot more history to the world. Having read  them The Silmarillion is a much more enjoyable reading experience because you can relate a lot between the books and fill in gaps you discovered in the books about the One Ring.

For reading The Silmarillion, I suggest not to read it back to back since it is not a single narrative from start to end. There are a lot of stories in there and A LOT of characters, events and places to keep track of. Do not rush this read! However, when you are finished you have gotten through the main books by J.R.R. Tolkien and you’ll have acquired a firm foundation on everything Tolkien. Well done!

Where to go from here?

Where you want to go from here depends on what you get interested in from reading the books mentioned above! I provide lists of themes to help you find the books you want to continue with. One is focusing on the world of Middle-Earth, the second is mainly to highlight themes of inspiration for Tolkien and the third list is more relevant to get closer to his person and the fourth is a list of short stories and other works. A lot of the books do overlap on these subjects. Ok, but let’s start with Middle-Earth!

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More Middle-Earth!

  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • The History of Middle-Earth
    • I: The Book of Lost Tales pt 1 (1983)
    • II: The Book of Lost Tales pt 2 (1984)
    • III: The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
    • IV: The Shaping of Middle-Earth (1986)
    • V: The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
    • VI: The Return of the Shadow (1988)
    • VII: The Treason of Isengard (1989)
    • VIII: The War of the Ring (1990)
    • IX: Sauron Defeated (1992)
    • X: Morgoth’s Ring (1993)
    • XI: The War of the Jewels (1994)
    • XII: The Peoples of Middle-Earth (1996)
  • The History of The Hobbit (John D. Rateliff, 2007)
  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (Hammond & Scull, 2005)
  • The Children of Húrin (2007)

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Legends and Inspiration!

  • The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays (1983)
  • The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun (2009)
  • The Fall of Arthur (2013)
  • Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (2014)
  • The Story of Kullervo (2015)

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Professor, please!

  • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981)
  • The Father Christmas Letters (1976)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustration (Hammond & Scull, 1995)

Short Stories & Other

If you want to have a detailed look on the bibliography of Tolkien, click here. For an extensice list of all publications, look here. Both links will refer you to Tolkien Gateway.

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One thought on “Reading Tolkien

  1. Pingback: Tolkien Week: Day 1 – The Blue Wizards | Tolkien Read Through

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